Stronger sales help AutoNation beat Wall Street's targets for profit and revenue in quarter



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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — AutoNation, operator of the country's largest chain of car dealerships, turned in record quarterly profit on Tuesday, beating Wall Street's estimates, thanks to stronger sales of new and used cars.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company reported fourth-quarter profit of $116.7 million, while revenue came in at $5.05 billion.

Measured for every share, the company's quarterly earnings of $1.02 hit an all-time high. But that's partially because AutoNation has been buying its own stock, shrinking the number of shares in circulation. The company reported spending $485 million on its shares in 2014.

The overall results topped analysts' forecasts. On average, analysts had expected earnings of 92 cents per share and revenue of $4.9 billion, according to Zacks Investment Research.

AutoNation Inc. said sales climbed for a variety of vehicles. Income from selling Detroit-based brands soared 28 percent to $74 million for the quarter, while income from imported brands such as Toyota and Honda rose 12 percent to $71 million. Meanwhile, income from its "premium luxury" segment, which include BMWs and Audis, increased 10 percent to $113 million.

For the year, the company posted profit of $418.7 million, or $3.52 per share, and revenue of $19.11 billion.

The car dealer owns and operates 273 new vehicle franchises, which sell 34 brands across 15 states.

Shares in AutoNation have dropped almost 2 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has fallen roughly 2 percent. But its stock has climbed 20 percent over the last year.

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