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Group 1 Auto Raises Dividend

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Group 1 Automotive Inc. (GPI - Free Report) revealed that its board of directors has approved a 6.7% increase in dividend to 16 cents per share for the first quarter of 2013 from 15 cents in the 2012-fourth quarter following its impressive earnings release on May 2. The increased dividend is payable on Jun 17 to stockholders of record as on Jun 3.

Group 1 Automotive raised dividend every year since it has resumed the payment in late 2010. Last year, the automotive retailer also raised dividend by a penny or 7.1% to 15 cents.

Group 1 Automotive posted a 19.6% rise in earnings per share to $1.16 in the first quarter of 2013 from 97 cents in the prior-year quarter and outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.04. Net income grew 26.5% to $29.2 million from $23.1 million in the first quarter of 2012.

Revenues increased 18% to $1.96 billion, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.89 billion. The year-over-year improvement was driven by strong retail new vehicle and used vehicle unit sales as well as higher revenues from Finance and insurance business.

Gross profit increased 15.4% to $300.5 million from $260.4 million in the year-ago quarter. Operating income improved 8.6% to $58.6 million from $54.0 million in the first quarter of 2012.

During the quarter, Group 1 Automotive acquired four franchises in the U.K and 22 franchises in Brazil, with combined annual revenues of $827.0 million. It also disposed a franchise in Calif., which generated annual revenues of $35.0 million in 2012.

Group 1 Automotive is one of the largest automotive retailers in the U.S., which provides 35 automotive brands. It has 143 automotive dealerships, 182 franchises and 36 collision centers in the U.S., U.K and Brazil. Currently, the company retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some other stocks that are performing well in the industry where Group 1 Automotive operates include Asbury Automotive Group, Inc. (ABG - Free Report) , AutoNation Inc. (AN - Free Report) and Lithia Motors Inc. (LAD - Free Report) . They carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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