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UPDATE 1-Strong used car sales help Asbury Auto beat estimates

Tuesday, 22 Oct 2013 | 8:38 AM ET

Oct 22 (Reuters) - U.S. auto dealer Asbury Automotive Group Inc posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit as demand for used vehicles rose due to easier availability of loans.

Asbury, which gets most of its revenue from sale of luxury cars made by automakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Nissan, said its used-vehicle sales rose 33 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

New-vehicle sales were up 13 percent, driven mainly by demand for luxury cars.

Auto sales have received a boost from banks relaxing their lending to subprime borrowers - those with poor credit profiles - after tightening their purse strings in 2009 when the U.S. economy went into recession.

U.S. banks made 36 percent of their car loans to subprime borrowers in the second quarter, up from 34 percent a year earlier, according to data released in September by Experian Plc , which tracks credit information and data on nearly 700 million vehicles in North America.

Asbury earned 91 cents per share from continuing operations on an adjusted basis in the third quarter. Analysts had expected 87 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 17 percent to $1.39 billion, topping analysts' estimate of $1.33 billion.

Net income rose to $22.7 million or 73 cents per share, in the third quarter, from $20.7 million, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company's shares closed at $54.20 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.

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