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AutoNation Matches Estimate

Net income falls due to a loss from discontinued operations.
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first-quarter earnings fell 10% from a year ago due to losses related to discontinued operations. Excluding those, the company matched an earnings estimate that it had tweaked several times over the last two months.

AutoNation earned $87.2 million, or 33 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $97 million, or 36 cents a share, a year ago. On a continuing-operations basis, AutoNation earned 37 cents a share in the latest quarter, matching the Thomson First Call consensus.

On April 6, AutoNation predicted it would earn 37 cents a share in the quarter, a penny better than the then-current consensus of 36 cents a share. The forecast came two weeks after the company predicted earnings of 32 cents to 35 cents a share, which at the time was slightly below the average analyst estimate.

AutoNation's difficulty predicting its results was due in part to a tender offer it was carrying out for 50 million of its own shares, a transaction that added leverage to its balance sheet and affected its interest expense. On Thursday, AutoNation said the tender had been completed, and predicted up to 15 cents of annual earnings accretion from it.

Overall revenue was $4.67 billion in the most recent quarter, up from $4.5 billion a year ago. Analysts were forecasting $4.72 billion. New vehicle sales totaled $2.69 billion, up from $2.64 billion, while used vehicle sales were $1.14 billion, compared with $1.07 billion.

"AutoNation delivered solid results in the first quarter across the board and we're especially pleased with the growth in premium luxury and our high-margin parts and service business," the company said. "Also in March we closed on the acquisition of Autohaus Mercedes-Benz in Pompano Beach, Fla., with annual revenues of approximately $230 million, which will further enhance the contribution of premium luxury to our brand mix."

The stock closed at $22.19 Wednesday.