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Used car dealership chain CarMax 1Q profit up 21 pct on higher sales, but expenses also rise

RICHMOND, Va. – Car dealership chain CarMax Inc. said Friday that higher sales of used cars drove its first-quarter profit up more than 21 per cent. Revenue grew 19 per cent, but its expenses grew 14 per cent.

The earnings and revenue results beat Wall Street expectations, sending its shares up initially before giving ground in the afternoon.

The Richmond, Va.-based company, which runs more than 120 stores in 61 markets that mainly sell used cars and trucks, reported earnings of $146.7 million, or 64 cents per share, for the three-month period ended May 31, up from $120.7 million, or 52 cents per share, a year ago.

Revenue grew 19 per cent to $3.31 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 58 cents per share on revenue of $3.17 billion.

Its shares rose 2 cents to close at $44.59 Friday after rising as high as $48.10 earlier. That was near its 52-week high of $48.86.

Sales at stores open at least one year rose 17 per cent. The figure is a key metric because it strips out the impact of newly opened and closed locations.

CarMax noted that it has benefited from a better consumer credit environment, with about 90 per cent of its customers receiving a financing offer from one of its lenders.

Used vehicle unit sales rose 22 per cent as the company’s average selling price rose more than a per cent to $19,540. Wholesale vehicle unit sales increased 6 per cent during the quarter. New vehicle unit sales, which make up a smaller part of CarMax’s business, fell 7.5 per cent. Other revenue, which includes fees it receives from third-party lenders its customers use, increased more than 4 per cent.

Its total gross profit — its profit after reconditioning and other costs — grew 17 per cent during the quarter. Gross profit per used vehicle sold slipped to $2,216 from $2,221 while wholesale gross profit per vehicle edged down $1 to $980.

Income from CarMax’s auto financing arm rose nearly 16 per cent to $87 million in the quarter as it financed more of its customers’ vehicles.

Expenses increased 14 per cent to $290.2 million as the company’s store base grew 12 per cent and spent more on selling costs due to higher sales.

CarMax has been trying to lower expenses, and improve traffic, execution and gross margins to position it for future growth. For example, the company has improved its sale and appraisal rates and lowered the costs for reconditioning vehicles.

The company also said Friday it plans to open between 10 and 15 stores in each of the next two fiscal years. CarMax said it repurchased 2.9 million shares of stock for $124.6 million during the quarter.

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum .