Inchcape and Pendragon are the top performers in the Automotive News Europe/PriceWaterhouse Coopers 2004 Shareholder Value Awards, announced at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Montreux.

Inchcape has returned 259% to its investors over a three-year period, compared with an average 183% by other European retailers.

It has more luxury car franchises than its competitors; no debt on its balance sheet and a cash reserve that is expected to reach €160 million this year.

The company has restructured itself during the past few years to become the world’s largest Europe-based vehicle distributor and retailer.

Hong Kong, for instance, is one of its strongest markets and is expected to boost company earnings significantly should a recovery take hold.

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Asia as a whole generates about half Inchcape’s revenue and even more of its profit. It has a particularly strong relationship with Toyota, for whom it handles approximately 90,000 new cars a year around the world. Its revenue reached €3.5 billion in 2003.

Meanwhile, Pendragon returned 132% to investors during the past year, compared with an average 89% by European retailers.

Pendragon became Europe’s largest car retailer last year after its £230 million purchase of CD Bramall, another UK-based retailer.

The acquisition added 133 franchises to the Pendragon network and boosted revenue to £3.7 billion.

Pendragon now owns 250 franchised outlets: 215 in the UK and 35 in Germany and the USA. It has double the dealerships of its closest rivals Inchcape, Reg Vardy and Lookers.

“The favourable new car market in the UK is forecast to continue,” Pendragon chairman Nigel Rudd told shareholders recently, “and the enlarged group will have opportunities to generate further economies of scale.”