Inchcape plc, which operates car importing and retailing companies worldwide said in a statement on Monday that trading levels in a number of its markets are slightly more favourable than anticipated in the statement issued on 13 May. The company announces results for the half year to June 30 on August 2.

“In the UK we remain confident that profits will rise in the year, continuing the trend started in 2001, driven primarily by UK Retail,” the statement said.

“In Greece and Belgium first half sales volumes are encouraging, and would have been stronger if it was not for supply constraints.

“Australia continues to benefit from a stronger than expected market and the success of the new Liberty [Legacy] and Outback models, which have helped increase Subaru’s first half market share.

“In Hong Kong the market, whilst still recovering, is strengthening at a slightly faster rate than previously anticipated.

“In Singapore the market to date has grown significantly but we expect the second half to be at a similar level to last year. Profits in local currency are expected to be ahead of last year.

“This year has started much better than expected and our financial performance is well ahead of 2003. Whilst growth will not continue at this level in the second half we are confident of a strong performance in 2004.”