Auto Trader profit tops £242m on revenue of £355m

Manchester-based Auto Trader Group plc said on Thursday its revenue rose 8% to £355.1 million and profit before tax rose 15% to £242.2 million in the year to March 31.

Auto Trader’s share price has soared about 64% in the past year to give the firm a current stock market value of around £5.45 billion and see it gain entry to the FTSE 100 index.

The firm said it returned £151.1 million to shareholders during the year through £93.5 million of share buy-backs (2018: £96.2 million) plus dividends of £57.6 million (2018: £52.2 million).

Gross external bank debt fell to £313 million from £343 million.

Auto Trader Group plc CEO Trevor Mather said: “We have achieved another strong year of revenue and profit growth driven by a line-up of products that are proven to improve the business performance of our retailer and manufacturer customers.   

“We remain the most trusted marketplace for car buyers and offer the largest choice of both new and used cars following the recent addition of brand-new cars on Auto Trader, which are available immediately and at competitive prices. 

“The new financial year has started well, and despite the continued wider market uncertainty, the board is confident of meeting its growth expectations for the year.”

In its outlook, Auto Trader said: “The financial year has started well with the success of our annual pricing event and the launch of a new Vehicle Check product for independent retailers. 

“We expect another strong year of ARPR growth.

“This will be underpinned by our product lever, albeit the growth in product is not likely to reach the exceptional levels seen in 2019.

“The price lever will be broadly consistent and the stock lever is likely to be slightly down in line with market trends.

“We anticipate average retailer forecourts to be flat year on year.

“Consumer services improved in the second half of last year which we expect to continue.

“Due to the challenges facing manufacturers and their agencies, we expect revenue from these customers to decline in the first half of the year.

“We do not foresee any issues with Brexit affecting our ability to provide our services, or to materially change our cost base. 

“We anticipate total operating costs for the year to increase at a rate of low to mid-single digit.

“The board is confident of meeting its growth expectations for the year.”