Motor dealer Inchcape improved half-year profits by 21 per cent - despite facing a far tougher market in the UK and continental Europe.
The group said profits from its UK business of 70 dealerships - including a string in the Midlands - improved to £13.8 million, from £11.3 million a year, and helped supplement strong growth in Singapore and Australia.
Overall, group profits stood at £104.8 million and maintained the company's record of improving interim results in every year since it became a pure automotive services group in 1999.
The UK arm, which accounts for a quarter of group business, has partnership agreements with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota/Lexus. Its retail brands include Cooper, HA Fox and Hunters.
The company said yesterday that despite a more difficult market, UK retail showed a like- for- like growth in trading profit.
It had put new processes in place which had boosted used car sales, more than offsetting a drop in new sales.
The company said the drop was at a lower rate than the market. There had also been growth in trading profit due to acquisitions, particularly the Mercedes- Benz dealerships bought last year in Derby, Nottingham, Loughborough and Mansfield.
At the time those deals were announced the group said those operations complemented existing markets in Coventry, Stratford and Oxford.
Further dealerships acquired this year in the North- west had also contributed.
The group said: "In total UK Retail generated a trading profit of £ 13.8 million, up from £11.3 million last year. The trading margin in the first half of 2004, under IFRS, was 1.9 per cent. In this more difficult year margins have progressed to two per cent."
With the exception of Greece, Inchcape said profits rose in all its core markets, with Singapore leading the way after a 22 per cent rise in trading profits.
There was also profits growth of 13.4 per cent in Australia as the company's dealerships benefited from a record market and strong Subaru demand.