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EDMONTON, Alberta — AutoCanada Inc. continued the momentum it started late last year and finished the first quarter of 2010 with net earnings that were up more than 27 percent from the year-ago period. 

The company also resumed payment of quarterly dividends.

Specifically, AutoCanada's first-quarter net earnings totaled $1.4 million, a 27.2-percent upswing from $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2009. 

This follows a fourth quarter of 2009 where the company posted net earnings of $1.7 million, which was a notable climb from a net loss of $67.1 million in the prior-year period.

Continuing on, first-quarter revenue was $28.7 million, a 16.6-percent improvement, and AutoCanada reported same-store revenue of $26.6 million, a gain of 16.9 percent.

Same-store new-vehicle revenue reached $104.7 million, up 34.6 percent year-over-year. Same-store used revenue was down 3.7 percent at $45.1 million. AutoCanada generated $9.9 million in same-store F&I revenue, an 11.7 percent rise from the same period of 2009.

Meanwhile, it had $24.6 million in same-store parts, service and collision repair revenue, a gain of 1.6 percent.

Looking at unit sales, same-store new sales reached 3,136 vehicles, a 27-percent hike. Same-store used unit sales fell 6.9 percent to 2,055 vehicles.

"We have continued to see improvements in the automotive retail market in the first three months of 2010," stated Pat Priestner, chief executive officer of AutoCanada.

"As a result of the increase in new-vehicle sales, our finance and insurance revenues have improved and our parts and service revenues have also benefited from increased sales," he continued. "We are also pleased to have acquired an additional Hyundai dealership in April and to have the opportunity to build on our strong partnership with Hyundai Auto Canada in Mississauga, Ontario."

Moving along, the company has begun paying dividends again. The annual rate is $0.16 per common share. As such, executives noted that there was an initial quarterly eligible dividend of $0.04 per common share on AutoCanada's outstanding Class A common shares.

This will be paid out on June 15 to the shareholders that the company has as of the end of business day on May 31.

"Our improved financial performance in recent months confirms to us that we remain a highly competitive company with a manageable cost structure even during a prolonged economic downturn. We are confident that we can continue to deliver solid financial performance despite a fragile economic environment," Priestner noted.

"We continue to focus on shareholder value, and I am pleased to announce this milestone," he added. "The initiation of a regular quarterly dividend is a strong commitment to return cash to shareholders."