Motor group returns to profit

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The Independent Online
RICHARD PALMER, who built Western Motors from a pounds 5m company into a pounds 100m one within four years, has returned his new vehicle, European Motor Holdings, to profit, writes John Murray.

The group, which he formed out of Cargo Control, made pounds 3.4m before tax in the year to 31 March against a loss of pounds 1.1m. A final dividend of 2p brings the total for the year to 3.5p compared with no dividend last time.

Mr Palmer said there were signs of a pick-up in the motor retail industry, although about two-thirds of the group's recovery could be put down to the new management's approach.

'What we have done is put in a proper management structure, with good cost controls and strong incentives for our employees to perform well,' he said. 'The whole thing is getting back to basics - in general terms the motor industry is a simple business and shouldn't be made too complicated.'

Wilcomatic, the car wash manufacturer acquired a year ago, contributed pounds 2.6m to pre-tax profits during the 10 months it was included in yesterday's results. Mill Garages, bought for pounds 2.7m two months after Wilcomatic, contributed pounds 1m in its eight months in the group.

Total turnover was pounds 117m ( pounds 23.9m). Mr Palmer said current trading was encouraging, with orders for August, traditionally the strongest month for car dealers, ahead 20 per cent.

Earnings per share were 7.3p and the shares stuck at 115p.