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29 Jan 2021 | 08:45

Lookers trading picks up after first-half loss

(Sharecast News) - Lookers said it performed better in the second half than a year earlier, largely offsetting a loss suffered during the first Covid-19 lockdown. The car retailer swung to a £50m pretax loss in its delayed results for the six months to the end of June from a £19.6m profit a year earlier as revenue fell 40% to £1.56m. Restructuring expenses, goodwill write-downs and an inquiry into an accounting fraud cost £13.9m.

The underlying pre-tax loss was £36.1m compared with a £22m profit a year earlier. Lookers proposed no dividend for the. year to the end of December.

Lookers first-half results were hit by the Covid-19 crisis, which closed its showrooms for much of the period. The company said trading in the second half was encouraging and that Lookers significantly outperformed the wider UK new car market.

Mark Raban, Lookers' chief executive, said: "2020 was a challenging year for Lookers, managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and a number of legacy issues facing the Group, which required significant action to restructure and improve the business for the long term.

"Despite a resilient sales performance, the benefit of government support and prompt action taken to manage costs, in the first half we incurred a significant loss in a very difficult period for the car retail industry. Although various restrictions continued into the second half of the year, trading improved significantly."

Lookers is overhauling its business, which was affected by falling car sales even before the Covid-19 crisis struck. The group closed 12 sites and cut 1,500 jobs last year. Raban took over as chief executive in February 2020 shortly before the company discovered a £300,000 accounting fraud that delayed its 2019 results until November.

The company said on Friday that Duncan McPhee had joined the board as chief operating officer. He has worked at Lookers for 12 years, most recently as chief retail operations officer.

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