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Sonic Automotive (NYSE:SAH) has revealed a profit of $7.2 million or 18 cents per share (excluding special items) for the fourth quarter of 2009 (see conference call transcript here), in stark contrast to a loss of $10.2 million or 21 cents per share (excluding special items) in the year-ago period.

With this, the company has surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a profit of 15 cents per share. The improvement was attributable to rise in sales volumes in the company’s both new and used vehicle businesses.

Total revenue for the quarter rose 10% to $1.6 billion. Of this, revenue from vehicle trade increased 12% to $1.3 billion. Meanwhile, revenue from parts, service and collision repair remained flat at $269 million and from finance, insurance and other services went up 11% to $39 million.

New Vehicle Retail

Revenue from new vehicles retail escalated 11% to $818 million. New vehicle retail units increased 4% to 24,902 vehicles. Retail margins improved 60 basis points to 7.3% from 6.7% in the year-ago quarter.

Used Vehicle Retail

Revenue from used vehicles retail appreciated 23% to $376 million. Used vehicle unit volume was up 18% to 18,711 vehicles. The company was able to achieve this by expanding its presence across the entire spectrum of the used vehicle market. However, gross margin deteriorated marginally to 7.2% from 7.3% in the year ago period.

Annual Results

Sonic Automotive posted a profit of $27.6 million or 68 cents per share in 2009. This is a decrease from a profit of $41.8 million or $1.25 per share in 2008. The profit is also a tad lower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 69 cents per share.

Total revenue in the year fell 12.5% to $6.1 billion. Of this, revenue from vehicle trade dipped 14% to $4.9 billion. Meanwhile, revenue from parts, service and collision repair slid 2% to $1.1 billion and from finance, insurance and other services went down 15% to $157 million.

Sonic Automotive operates as an automotive retailer, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Its dealerships provide various services, including the sale of new and used cars, besides light trucks and replacement parts. It also provides vehicle maintenance, warranty, paint and repair services for its automotive customers. It is the nation’s third-largest automotive retailer, with 153 dealership franchises.

Source: Sonic Auto Beats Q4 Estimates