earnings growth slammed to a halt in the first quarter, causing its share price to skid Thursday.
Net income was $35.33 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with $35.26 million, or 34 cents a share, a year ago.
Analysts expected the company to earn 30 cents a share, based on a survey by Thomson First Call. The used car chain had lowered guidance to 30 cents to 32 cents a share last month.
Revenue rose from $1.17 billion to $1.32 billion. Income from the company's auto financing operations fell to $21.8 million from $25.7 million in 2003, reflecting the changing interest rate environment. Interest income fell to $53 million, from $122 million in the year-ago period.
Shares fell $1.39, or 6.4%, to $20.21 in premarket trading.
"Although we were quite disappointed with our used car sales performance for the quarter, we were pleased to be able to achieve net earnings in line with our originally projected range," the company said in a statement. "Nonetheless, we continue to see considerable volatility in our used car sales and have a very cautious outlook toward the second quarter."
The Glen Allen, Va.-based company said it expected to earn 30 cents to 35 cents a share in the second quarter, and same-store sales would range between a 5% decline and a 1% gain.
The consensus estimate is for 37 cents a share.