UK car dealer Pendragon has announced a return to profit for 2009, although it continues to anticipate a challenging year ahead.

Announcing the unaudited preliminary results today (23 February) the UK’s largest dealer group said profit before tax of GBP1.3m ($US1.8m) compared with a loss of GBP194m a year ago.

Revenue fell from GBP4.2bn to GBP3.2bn although net debt dropped by GBP41.9m.

“The group has successfully dealt with the most challenging market conditions experienced since the nineties,” said Pendragon chief executive Trevor Finn in a statement.

“We acted swiftly to implement significant cost saving and debt reduction actions. During 2009 we concluded a successful refinancing to secure the long term future of the group. Consequently, we are now in sound shape and have returned to profitability.

“While we anticipate our market will remain difficult in 2010, we are well positioned to focus on the profit opportunities that will drive our core business forward.”

Pendragon operates 276 new and used car dealerships in the UK and also operates in the vehicle leasing, parts wholesaling and dealership management software sectors.

Volume and luxury brands are sold in the UK through Evans Halshaw and Stratstone respectively.

Pendragon said it constantly reviews its brand franchises.

“The franchise portfolio is constantly reviewed and dealerships that are determined to be uneconomical are closed or sold, or the location refranchised,” it said, noting: “This strategy has led to a number of closures during the last two years.”

“It remains our intention to represent a broad range of vehicle manufacturers and have meaningful scale with them. Where we believe the long term prospects for a particular franchise are
poor we will exit that franchise as soon as is practicable.”

The company also has nine outlets in California.