AutoNation's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

AutoNation (AN)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 25, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Cheryl Scully - Former Vice President

Michael J. Jackson - Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

Mike Short - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President

Michael E. Maroone - President, Chief Operating Officer and Director

Analysts

John Murphy - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

N. Richard Nelson - Stephens Inc., Research Division

Simeon Gutman - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Patrick Archambault - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

James J. Albertine - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Dan Galves - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Ravi Shanker - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Matthew R. Nemer - Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division

Colin Langan - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Brett D. Hoselton - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Thank you for standing by, and welcome to AutoNation's First Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Today's conference call is being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time. Now I will turn the call over to Mrs. Cheryl Scully, Treasurer and Vice President of Investor Relations for AutoNation. Ma'am, you may begin.

Cheryl Scully

Good morning, and welcome to AutoNation's First Quarter 2012 Conference Call and Webcast. Leading our call today will be Mike Jackson, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Mike Maroone, our President and Chief Operating Officer; and Mike Short, our Chief Financial Officer. Following their remarks, we will open up the call for questions. Kate Keyser-Pearlman and I will also be available via phone following the call to address any additional questions that you may have.

Before we begin, let me read our brief statement regarding forward-looking comments and the use of non-GAAP financial measures. Certain statements and information on this call will constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Federal Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements involve risks, which may cause the actual results or performance to differ materially from expectations. Additional discussions of factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are contained in our SEC filings. Certain non-GAAP financial measures, as defined under SEC rules, may be discussed on this call. Reconciliations are available on our Investor Relations website at investors.autonation.com under Financials.

And now I'll turn the call over to AutoNation's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mike Jackson.

Michael J. Jackson

Good morning. Thank you for joining us. Today, we reported an all-time record quarterly earnings per share from continuing operations of $0.56 for the first quarter, a 22% increase as compared to $0.46 for the same period in the prior year. First quarter 2012 revenue totaled $3.7 billion compared to $3.3 billion in the year-ago period, an increase of 10%, driven primarily by stronger retail new vehicle unit sales. In the first quarter, total U.S. industry new vehicle retail sales increased 7% based on CNW Research data. In comparison, during the same period, AutoNation's new vehicle unit sales increased 10%, or 8% on a same-store basis.

In the first quarter, we repurchased 11.7 million shares, or 9% of the shares outstanding as of December 31, 2011, for $405 million at an average price per share of $34.72. Since the year I arrived in 1999, we have bought back over 400 million shares for $7 billion at an average price of under $17 per share.

In the first quarter, we saw an industry selling rate of 14.5 million units, the best quarterly selling rate since the first quarter of 2008. As we look at the rest of 2012, we believe that the improvement in new vehicle sales will continue. And we've increased our planning assumption for 2012 industry new vehicle sales to mid-14 million units. Recovery is driven by replacement demand as the age of the fleet on the road has increased to almost 11 years old. Also, manufacturers have stepped up the pace of new models. Finally, the credit environment is very strong with low interest rates and ample credit availability aiming for customers with less-than-stellar credit.

Even with the rising fuel prices, we continue see a solid recovery for both trucks and cars. In the past, the consumer had sacrificed size or the type of vehicle that they really desired to get better fuel economy. Today, it's a win-win as consumers get exactly the vehicle they want with improved fuel efficiency. AutoNation is well positioned to capitalize on recovery with an optimal brand to market mix and a disciplined cost structure. We continue to demonstrate our ability to drive strong shareholder returns during the multi-year recovery in auto retail.

I'll now turn the call over to our Chief Financial Officer, Mike Short.

Mike Short

Thank you, Mike, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. For the first quarter, we reported net income from continuing operations of $74 million or $0.56 per share versus $70 million or $0.46 per share during the first quarter of 2011, a 22% improvement on a per-share basis. There were no adjustments to net income in either period.

In the first quarter, revenue increased $346 million or 10% compared to the prior year, and gross profit improved by $37 million or 6%. In the first quarter of 2011, gross profit was favorably impacted by $4.6 million related to additional incentives under our Premium Luxury program.

SG&A as a percentage of gross profit was 71.8% for the quarter, which represents a 20-basis-point improvement compared to a year ago period. Excluding the benefit from the additional incentives in the first quarter of 2011, SG&A as a percentage of gross profit improved by a more comparable 80 basis points versus the prior period.

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