UPDATE 1-AutoNation earnings rise on cost cuts


(Recasts first sentence, updates throughout with details)

DETROIT, July 24 (Reuters) - AutoNation Inc. , the nation's largest new and used vehicle dealer, said on Thursday second-quarter profit rose slightly thanks to cost cuts, and raised its outlook for the year despite worries about the economy.

AutoNation said it earned $106.3 million, or 37 cents a share, compared with $103.8 million, or 32 cents a share, in the same quarter a year earlier. Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 30 cents a share, according to Reuters Research, a division of Reuters Group Plc.

The company said revenue from new vehicles, finance and insurance rose, while used vehicle revenue fell and parts sales were flat. Overall, revenue rose to $5.1 billion from $5.02 billion.

Sales, general and administrative costs fell by about 1 percent to $549 million, while interest costs rose.

AutoNation and other publicly traded dealer groups have boosted earnings in recent years through buying dealerships, but have slowed the pace of acquisitions in recent months as owners demanded higher prices.

Economic conditions have hit dealerships in much of their business. New car sales are off about 2 percent, and steep incentives on new vehicles have driven down prices for both new and used cars and trucks. Parts and service sales have also been reduced by more durable vehicles.

While saying it saw a "challenging" environment, AutoNation raised its full-year earnings forecast from continuing operations by 7 cents to a range of $1.28 to $1.33 per share, excluding the benefit of a tax settlement in the first quarter. It also predicted third-quarter earnings of 34 cents to 36 cents a share.

Analysts had predicted third-quarter earnings of 34 cents a share, and full-year earnings of $1.21, according to Reuters Research.



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