Auto Trader Group plc (LON:AUTO), the UK’s largest digital automotive marketplace, has announced full year results for the year ended 31 March 2022
– Our financial performance, customer numbers, consumer engagement and product uptake are at record levels. Throughout the year we have also further strengthened our competitive position. Paid stock was up year-on-year for the first time in four years, despite the challenging market conditions.
– We successfully executed our annual pricing event in April 2021, including the launch of Retailer Stores, which provide retailers their own dedicated, customisable location on Auto Trader.
– We saw strong levels of product uptake which was partly driven by upsell to our new higher-level advertising packages, which now give a consistent cross-platform search experience and our newly launched Market Extension product, which allows our retailers to reach car buyers outside their local area.
– We launched Auto Trader Connect as part of our April 2022 pricing event, which has gone well. This gives customers access to our most fundamental and powerful data, including our taxonomy, which improves advert quality, pricing decisions and enables stock to be updated on Auto Trader in real-time.
– We continue to focus on supporting an increasingly online car buying journey and have made good progress in developing both the component parts which will form our end-to-end deal builder journey and scaling some of the key enablers to support digital retailing. There has been no erosion in Operating profit margin as we continue to invest in future revenue streams.
– In March 2022, we announced that we have agreed to acquire all the share capital of Autorama (UK) Limited, subject to regulatory approvals. Autorama’s online marketplace and fulfilment capabilities will transform Auto Trader’s existing leasing proposition helping meet the demands of the growing number of consumers who might consider leasing their next new vehicle.
– Revenue up 65% to £432.7 million (2021: £262.8 million), and up 17% on 2020 (£368.9 million). Trade revenue up 72% to £388.3 million (2021: £225.2 million) and up 20% on 2020 (£324.3 million). Revenue in the prior year was impacted by our decision to provide free advertising to retailer customers in April 2020, May 2020, December 2020 and February 2021, as well as at a discounted rate in June 2020.
– Operating profit up 88% to £303.6 million (2021: £161.2 million) and up 17% on 2020 (£258.9 million). Operating profit margin increased to 70% (2021: 61%), consistent with 2020 levels. Costs increased by 27% to £132.0 million (2021: £104.0 million).
– Profit before tax up 91% to £301.0 million (2021: £157.4 million) and up 20% on 2020 (£251.5 million).
– Basic EPS up 93% to 25.61p per share (2021: 13.24p) and up 15% on 2020 (22.19p).
– Cash generated from operations1 up 115% to £328.1 million (2021: £152.9 million), and up 24% on 2020 (£265.5 million).
– £237.1 million returned to shareholders (2021: Nil) through £163.5 million of share buybacks and dividends paid of £73.6 million.
– Proposed final dividend of 5.5 pence per share (2021: 5.0 pence per share) giving total dividends of 8.2 pence per share for the year (2021: 5.0 pence per share).
– Cross platform visits3,4 up 9% to 63.8 million per month on average (2021: 58.3 million).
– Cross platform minutes3,4 up 5% to 588.1 million per month on average (2021: 561.1 million). Our share of cross platform minutes3,5 remains strong at over 75% (2021: over 75%) and we grew to be 8x larger than our nearest competitor (2021: 7x).
– The average number of retailer forecourts3 in the period was up 5% to 13,964 (2021: 13,336), due to both our strong position and favourable market conditions.
– Average Revenue Per Retailer3 (ARPR) per month was up £886 to £2,210 on average per month (2021: £1,324). Excluding COVID-19 discounts in the prior year, underlying ARPR increased by £247 per month, with growth from all three ARPR levers.
– Physical car stock3,6 on site was down 11% to 430,000 (2021: 485,000) on average, of which our listings product for new cars declined to 29,000 on average (2021: 47,000).
– Number of employees (FTEs3) increased to 960 on average during the period (2021: 909).
– Employees that are proud to work at Auto Trader7 remained high at 95% (March 2021: 93%).
– Diverse teams and an inclusive culture are critical to attracting, identifying and maximising the potential of our people and therefore our business:
o Board: We now have a greater percentage of women than men on our Board (March 2021: 50:50), following the appointment of Jasvinder Gakhal as an Independent Non-Executive Director to the Board, with effect from 1 January 2022.
o Leadership: The percentage of women leaders8 was 38% (March 2021: 34%), and those who are ethnically diverse9 was 6% (March 2021: 6%).
o Organisation: The percentage of employees who are women was 40%10 (March 2021: 39%), and those who are ethnically diverse9,10 was 14% (March 2021: 11%).
– In June 2021, we signed up to the Science Based Target initiative Business Ambition for 1.5°C, which committed us to achieving net zero before 2050. We are aiming to achieve net zero across our entire value chain (Scopes 1, 2 and 3) before 2040, having halved our carbon emissions before the end of 2030. The total amount of our CO2 emissions increased in the year by 16% to 11.7k tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent11 versus our benchmark of 2020 (10.1k tonnes), which was due to an increase in our cost base and higher capital expenditure. During the year we offset these emissions across all scopes using an accredited scheme and were therefore carbon neutral. This year, for the first time the reduction in emissions will form part of our remuneration policy.
The new financial year has started well. In April this year, we successfully executed our annual pricing event which included the launch of our Auto Trader Connect product.
We are anticipating another good year of ARPR growth, underpinned by our product lever. We expect growth in the product lever to be greater than 2021, but less than the exceptional performance achieved in 2022. We expect the price lever to be broadly consistent with last year, and the stock lever to be flat. We anticipate average retailer forecourts to be marginally down year-on-year, as market conditions start to toughen.
Consumer Services is expected to increase at a rate of low-mid single digits year-on-year, while Manufacturer and Agency remains unclear due to well documented supply chain issues. These two areas only represent c.10% of total Group revenue.
Despite pressure on costs, we anticipate Operating profit margins to be consistent year-on-year at 70%.
This outlook does not include the acquisition of Autorama, which will be provided upon completion. The completion date is not yet known as not all regulatory approvals have been received.
Despite growing economic uncertainty, the Board is confident of meeting its growth expectations for the year.
A presentation for analysts will be held via audio webcast and conference call at 9.30am, Thursday 26 May 2022. Details below.
Audio webcast: https://edge.media-server.com/mmc/p/2i7eqkti
Conference call details:
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Please note: Questions will only be taken from in the room at Bank of America. Participants on the conference call who plan on following the slides via the webcast should switch the webcast to phone mode using the cogwheel icon located on the bottom right corner of the webcast screen to ensure the slides are synced to the phone audio rather than the webcast audio.
Nathan Coe, Chief Executive Officer of Auto Trader Group plc, said:
“This year marks the best financial and operational performance in our history, which is credit to our people and the partnerships we have with our customers.
“We are well placed to continue growing our core business while establishing the products that retailers will need to shift more of the car buying journey online, on Auto Trader.
“Despite the current high levels of economic uncertainty and industry change, we enter the year with good reason for both confidence and optimism.”