Business briefs: AutoNation fights off winter; profit up 15 percent

April 18, 2014 

AutoNation fights off cold; profit up 15 percent

FORT LAUDERDALE -- A late-March surge in car and truck buying helped dealership group AutoNation Inc. overcome subzero temperatures and waves of winter storms to post nearly a 15 percent increase in first-quarter net income.

The country's largest dealership chain with 270 franchises said it earned $95.1 million, or 78 cents per share, from January through March. That compares with $83 million, or 67 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 6.5 percent to $4.36 billion.

The news sent AutoNation shares up $1.77, or 3.3 percent, to $55.66 in morning trading after hitting what FactSet says is an all-time high of $56.10 earlier in the day.

Excluding a $5 million gain from disposing of businesses and properties, the Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation company earned 75 cents per share from continuing operations. That beat Wall Street estimates of 73 cents. Revenue also was ahead of Wall Street. Analysts polled by data provider FactSet expected $4.32 billion.

The company's retail vehicle sales rose 5 percent for the quarter, and AutoNation still expects 3 percent to 5 percent U.S. industry growth this year for an annual selling rate of 16 million.

Island hosts seventh-annual wedding festival

ANNA MARIA -- Anna Maria Island will host its seventh-annual wedding festival May 4.

The festival is an island-wide, strolling style event in which prospective brides and grooms can meet with wedding professionals, from caterers to florists, photographers and event planners, while viewing wedding venues. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a grand finale celebration at 6 p.m. The event offers prizes and other giveaways.

For information visit amiweddingfestival.com or call the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce at 941-778-1541.

Herbalife discloses investigation in Illinois

NEW YORK -- Nutritional supplements and weight-loss products maker Herbalife is being investigated by the Illinois attorney general.

The office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan confirms it is investigating complaints brought by consumers. Herbalife says it will work with the attorney general's office, and that it is confident in the integrity of its business and its compliance with the law. The company has more than 15,000 members in Illinois.

Herbalife shares fell 17 cents to $55.10 on Thursday.

For more than a year, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has accused the company of being a "pyramid scheme" that makes money by recruiting more salespeople instead of through selling products. Herbalife rejects the accusation.

In March, the Cayman Islands company said it is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for possible "deceptive practices."

-- Herald staff and wire reports

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