U.S. Dealership Buy/Sell Activity Up 75% in First Half of 2014

Luxury blue sky pricing soars; franchise price differentiation increases; large transactions on the rise; GM franchise acquisitions in first half surpass total for 2013, according to The Blue Sky Report™

IRVINE, Calif.--()--U.S. dealership buy/sell activity continued to dramatically increase in the first half of 2014, up 75% YOY, according to The Blue Sky Report™, a Kerrigan Quarterly, which was released today for the Second Quarter of 2014 by Kerrigan Advisors. The report is the auto industry's most comprehensive and authoritative quarterly report and analysis of dealership buy/sell activity and franchise values.

Laying out the high, average and low multiples for each franchise in the luxury and non-luxury segments for the quarter, the report offers a detailed view of public and private company dealership acquisition activity. In addition to the continued rise in transaction activity – 95 dealership transactions in the first half of the year, versus just 54 in first half 20131- key findings include that private buyers continue to lead buy/sell activity, luxury blue sky pricing is soaring, franchise price differentiation is increasing, and GM franchise acquisitions in the first half of 2014 have surpassed 2013 totals.

“We predict that, at the current pace of acquisitions, 2014 will see at least 200 dealership buy/sells, driven in large part by record blue sky values and an aging dealer body,” said Erin Kerrigan, founder and managing director of Kerrigan Advisors. “However, we are seeing signs that the sharp rise in sellers coming into the market (offering buyers a greater selection of opportunities) is starting to put pressure on the blue sky values of certain lower demand franchises.”

“Overall, P/E multiples for the publics were up materially in Q2, with an average increase of 16%. More impressively, the most active acquirers, Lithia and Group 1, saw their P/E multiples grow at double that pace, at 32% and 39% respectively. This aggressive p/e multiple expansion bodes well for public acquisition activity for the remainder of the year, and – potentially – acquisition multiples for transactions fitting their buying criteria.”

Report Highlights

  • Total transaction activity up 75% in the first half of 2014, as compared to first half 2013.
  • Luxury blue sky pricing appears to have few limits, given the limited supply of luxury US franchises and the robust growth in luxury auto sales.
  • Lithia and Group 1 saw their P/E multiples grow at double the pace of the sector in the second quarter, 32% and 39% respectively, versus 16% for the sector – Kerrigan Advisors believes the growth in Lithia and Group 1’s valuation is driven by their commitment to dealership acquisitions.
  • AutoNation continues to allocate its capital to stock buybacks ($182M in the first half, more than all of the other public companies combined) and still has not completed an acquisition this year (though there are rumors a large acquisition in on the horizon).
  • Private buyers continue to lead acquisition activity. The top 10 private acquirers over the last 18 months acquired 25% more dealerships than the six publics during the same time frame.
  • High demand geographies result in premium blue sky pricing for certain franchises, particularly domestics.
  • Multi-dealership transaction activity rose 40% in the first half of 2014, versus 2013 – transaction sizes are growing.
  • The number of acquisitions involving GM franchises in the first 6 months of the year has already surpassed the total for all of 2013.

“The balance of 2014 promises a vigorous acquisition market; however, the industry should prepare itself for a slightly less robust acquisition future,” continued Kerrigan. “While large transactions are expected to rise in the near term, spending will slow as acquirers digest their acquisitions. Moreover, when auto sales slow (as predicted by industry analysts), pressure will come to bear on blue sky pricing: the closer we get to 17 million SAAR, the closer we get to the peak of blue sky values.”

The Blue Sky Report™, a Kerrigan Quarterly, is published four times a year and includes Kerrigan Advisor’s signature blue sky charts, multiples and analysis for each franchise in the luxury and non-luxury segments. The multiples are based on Kerrigan Advisors’ view of franchise values in the current buy/sell market and can be applied to adjusted pre-tax dealership earnings to estimate blue sky value. To download the report, click here.

Kerrigan Advisors market analysis will also be showcased at the following conference venues where Erin Kerrigan is featured as keynote/presenter:

October 2014:

  • California Dealership Acquisition Seminar with Crowe Horwath and Arent Fox
  • AICPA Auto Dealership Conference: Preparing for a Successful Buy/Sell

January 2015

  • JD Power Automotive Summit (formerly Roundtable): Trends Driving the Buy/Sell Market and Buy/Sell Panel
  • NADA 2015 Workshop: Strategies for Increasing Your Business’ Value

About Kerrigan Advisors

Kerrigan Advisors is a national dealership buy/sell advisory firm focused on providing a high level of client service for dealership sellers. Led by a team of veteran advisors who have represented transactions totaling over $2 billion dollars in automotive, private equity and investment banking, Kerrigan Advisors customizes each sale process to maximize the seller’s transaction proceeds. With the most comprehensive buyer database in the industry, Kerrigan Advisors has the industry context and expertise to match each seller with the right buyer.

Each quarter, Kerrigan Advisors publishes The Blue Sky Report™, a Kerrigan Quarterly, which is the auto industry's most comprehensive and authoritative quarterly report and analysis of dealership buy/sell activity and franchise values. Kerrigan Advisors’ Managing Director Erin Kerrigan, who authors the report, is a recognized industry expert on dealership valuation, real estate and buy/sells, and is a frequent speaker at leading auto retail events and conferences, including NADA, JD Power Automotive Roundtable, AICPA, NADC and Driving Sales’ President’s Club. She has also been a keynote speaker for events hosted by American Honda Motor Company, Audi of America, US Trust, Ohio Automobile Dealer Association, and SunTrust Bank and has led webinars for NADA and Automotive News. Her expertise is also featured in a monthly column for Dealer Magazine.

1 Source: The Banks Report & Kerrigan Advisors Research

Contacts

Kerrigan Advisors Media Contact:
mWEBB Communications
Melanie Webber, 424-603-4340
melanie@mwebbcom.com

Contacts

Kerrigan Advisors Media Contact:
mWEBB Communications
Melanie Webber, 424-603-4340
melanie@mwebbcom.com