April 27 (Reuters) - First-quarter profit for Group 1 Automotive, the No. 3 U.S. auto dealer group, beat analyst expectations but its net earnings fell 4.3 percent due to vehicles damaged by hail in Texas, where the company is headquartered and has many dealerships.
Group 1's sales rose 7.2 percent to $2.61 billion, in line with expectations of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Group 1 reported first quarter record earnings adjusted for one-time items of $37.1 million, up 3.4 percent, or $1.59 per share, compared to expectations of $1.49 per share.
Net income fell 4.3 percent to $34.3 million, or $1.47 per diluted share.
Special items included $1.7 million of net after-tax adjustment for insurance deductibles linked to vehicle damage sustained by hail storms, and $800,000 related to divesting of four stores in Brazil.
AutoNation Inc, the largest U.S. auto dealer group, also reported first-quarter costs from hail damage to its vehicles.
Group 1 Chief Executive Earl Hesterberg cited advantageous share prices for the company's purchase of 1.49 million shares since the start of the year, of which 61 percent has been bought since the first quarter ended on March 31.
Group 1, based in Houston, said U.S. sales accounted for about 80 percent of its revenue, while dealerships in Britain made up 16.6 percent of revenue and stores in Brazil another 3.6 percent. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Bill Trott)