For the past two years,Lithia Motors (
) has delivered strong earnings and revenue gains.
In 2010-11, earnings surged 69% and 112% on revenue growth of
16% and 27%. The Street expects a 39% pop in this year's EPS
while revenue advances 21%.
The Oregon-based company operates automotive franchises of new
and used vehicles and services. As of July, Lithia had 85 stores
in 11 states along with a website.
In the most recent quarter, new vehicles accounted for about
56% of total revenue.
Second quarter earnings grew 41%. The Street had expected 17%
growth. Q2 revenue jumped 26%.
The fundamentals for Lithia are best considered in context.
The Retail-Wholesale Automotive group includes some chains that
sell only used vehicles. Lithia sells both new and used, and four
other companies in the group have a similar profile.
So let's look at the data vs. similar companies.
Lithia's pretax margin was 3.2% last year, its best since
) came in at 3.4%, Ashbury Automotive (
) at 2.2%,Penske Automotive (
) at 2.2% andSonic Automotive (
) at 1.7%.
Return on equity, a gauge of financial efficiency, was 15.3%
last year at Lithia. AutoNation was 14.4%; Ashbury, 19.3%,
Penske, 15%; and Sonic, 16.9%.
Lithia's five-year earnings stability factor is 39 on a scale
of 0 (calm) to 99 (erratic). AutoNation's is 23, Ashbury's 51,
Penske's 40 and Sonic's 47.
Operating cash flow per share was 36% greater than EPS at
Lithia. AutoNation was 42%; Ashbury, 58%; Penske, 32%; and Sonic,
The annualized dividend yield for Lithia is 1.3%. AutoNation
and Ashbury do not pay dividends. Penske's dividend yield is
1.7%, and Sonic's is 0.5%.
Lithia leads the pack overall with a Composite Rating of 96.
Penske is next at 94; Ashbury, 90; AutoNation, 89; and Sonic,
On Thursday, Lithia cleared a 30.10 buy point in a tight
consolidation. The pattern could be seen as a three-weeks-tight
or a square box. The entry is the same regardless. Volume was 21%
Thursday but came in heavy Friday. The buy zone is up to