LONDON -- British car dealer Inchcape reported higher first-half earnings at the top end of forecasts on Monday after strong sales in key markets in Australia and Singapore offset tougher markets in Europe.
Inchcape, which distributes and sells cars for Toyota, BMW, Ferrari and others, flagged fresh acquisitions, particularly in retail, and expansion in eastern Europe and China.
"It has been a difficult year in some of our markets but we have made good headway," Finance Director Alan Ferguson told Reuters, saying the group expected further progress this year.
Inchcape said pretax profit before exceptional items for the six months to June 30 was 100.8 million pounds ($176.9 million), up from 87.9 million previously.
This compared with the market consensus of 95 million pounds, according to forecasts provided by the company.
Ferguson pointed to current full-year market forecasts of 186-187 million pounds but said he expected analysts to review the numbers following the strong six-month result.
Inchcape reported strong results for most of its core markets in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Belgium and Britain. However, profits fell in Greece where it lost market share and against a strong performance a year ago during the Olympics.
"We are maybe looking at some margin pressure in the second half (in Greece) as we look to draw back some market share," Ferguson said.
Record sales of Subarus drove profits in Australia, while higher sales of Toyota's Lexus model drove Singapore earnings. Both those markets were expected to remain strong in the second half, the firm said.
A tough UK market, where new car sales were weak, was helped by higher used-car sales, finance and insurance income and profit from new acquisitions, particularly a Mercedes-Benz dealership acquired in June last year.
Inchcape, which has been buying back shares and raising dividends, said it still had the financial muscle to expand in Europe and possibly China.
The company planned to expand its retail business with Subaru in Australia and Toyota in Greece, and was also eyeing expansion opportunities in eastern Europe and possibly China.