Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2001   by Auto Service World

Over the Counter: April 2001

Technology News Tops Concerns

Despite the automotive aftermarket’s own direct issues with the stock market, the tarnishing of technology stocks is not without its affects on the aftermarket.

In one recent development, DST Macdonald has announced that it will service, market and continue development of the Turbospark technology, which it developed over the past 18 months on behalf of Sparkhorse.

Turbospark connects service dealers to their distributors using the Internet. Although the Sparkhorse website has been shut down, DST Macdonald will shortly reintroduce the service with a new business model.

North of the border, CybrrpartsPro has been the subject of much speculation. Following the acquisition of the website–but not the company–by Nichols Publishing, which also acquired the Auto Digest site, customers of the service were left wondering where support was coming from. In a letter from Nichols, business partners and resellers were advised “As far as we know, all employees of, Inc. have been laid off. The offices have been emptied and the phone lines disconnected.” According to Nichols, current subscriber services were to be terminated at the end of March, with updates having stopped in January. “Nichols is currently working to adjust both sites and rebrand them as ‘Chilton’ services,” which was to be completed by the end of March.

Specialty Sales & Marketing, which has represented the CybrrpartsPro product to the Canadian aftermarket, recently contacted its customer base, telling them that it was waiting to evaluate the new product before deciding to continue with its agreement.

Also, Autovia’s website has been shut down for some time now, and no word has reached Jobber News on the future of that product. Autovia, which had been represented by Grant Brothers Sales, made several promising announcements of in mid-February, but then announced the ceasing of operations pending additional funding.

Sales Up for North American Distribution Majors

Uni-Select and Genuine Parts Company have reported modest growth in sales in 2000, though Uni-Select reported a decline in overall earnings due to a decline in the heavy-duty business.

Genuine Parts Company, parent of UAP Inc., says sales in 2000 were $8.37 billion U.S., a 5% increase over 1999 sales of $7.95 billion. Net income increased 2% to $385 million U.S., compared with $378 million recorded in the prior year. In 2000, earnings reached $2.20 per share versus $2.11 per share in 1999, an increase of 4%. Larry Prince, chairman of the board of directors, said, “We are pleased to report that each of our four segments contributed to our growth in 2000. The Automotive Parts Group improved sales by 2%, the Motion Industries Industrial Group by 9% and the S. P. Richards Office Products Group increased 10%. The EIS Electrical/Electronic Materials Group increased their sales by 7%.”

Genuine Parts’ fourth quarter sales ending December 31, 2000 increased 3% to $2.02 billion U.S., as compared to $1.97 billion U.S. for the same period in 1999. Net income in the fourth quarter of 2000 was $105.3 million versus $108.4 million in the fourth quarter of 1999. Earnings per share in the fourth quarter were even with the prior year at 61 cents per share.

Uni-Select announced sales of $580.2 million Cdn. for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2000, compared to $530 million Cdn. during the previous fiscal year, for an increase of 9.5%. Net earnings for the calendar year 2000 reached $17.3 million or $0.95 per share, a decline of 10.5% compared to $19.4 million or $1.05 per share during the previous year.

For the fourth quarter of 2000, Uni-Select increased its sales by 4.1%, from $130.2 million to $135.6 million. Net earnings for the last quarter of 2000 reached $8.0 million or $0.44 per share compared to $8.4 million or $0.45 per share for the corresponding period of the previous year.

The return on shareholders’ equity was 15.2% in 2000 compared to 18.7% in 1999. Cash flow from operations totaled $23.5 million or $1.29 per share compared to $23.2 million or $1.26 per share in 1999, for an increase of 1.4%. During the second quarter, Uni-Select Inc. had recorded rationalization cost amounting to $1.4 million before taxes ($0.9 million after taxes). These costs were incurred mainly to close 10 of the Heavy Duty Group stores. “The increase in sales during the 2000 calendar year results from our expansion strategy in the United Sates where our revenues increased 88%,” says Jacques Landreville, president and chief executive officer of Uni-Select. “Automotive Group Canada, for its part, increased its market share in a slightly declining market. Its revenues increased 1.6% in 2000. However, sales of the Heavy Duty Group fell by 8.4% due to a reorganization of its customer portfolio and the effect of the increase in fuel prices on the transportation industry.”

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