* Q2 ex-items 22 cents/share vs analyst consensus 13 cents
* Revenue in line with analyst forecasts (Adds details on cash, debt, earnings results)
DETROIT - Auto dealership group Asbury Automotive Group Inc (ABG.N) posted a 47 percent drop in quarterly earnings on Thursday, but said the U.S. new vehicle market had essentially stabilized, though at very low levels.
Asbury, which has renegotiated the covenants covering its principal credit facilities, said the second-quarter results represented a sequential improvement over the first quarter and it will continue to focus on a restructuring.
The U.S. new vehicle market has plunged to the lowest levels in about three decades under the economic downturn, but analysts and industry executives have said there were signs of stability at the lower levels in recent months.
Net income fell to $5.5 million, or 17 cents per share, from $10.4 million, or 32 cents per share, a year earlier.
Asbury, the No. 6 U.S. auto dealership group based on the number of new vehicles sold last year, reported income of 18 cents per share from continuing operations. It also said that the results included 4 cents per share of non-core charges.
Analysts on average expected Asbury to report earnings of 13 cents per share excluding one-time items, according to Reuters Estimates.
Revenue fell 24 percent to $942.4 million. Analysts expected revenue of $942.25 million.
Earlier this year, Asbury warned that its accounting firm was raising doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern after it reported a steep net loss in the fourth quarter of 2008 that included impairment charges.
Asbury had $42 million of cash on hand at the end of the second quarter and now has $170 million in available borrowing capacity under its credit facilities after completing negotiations with its lenders.
The lenders removed some restrictions and relaxed others for a period of time in exchange for limits on new debt and a reduction in the amount of revolving credit, Asbury said. (Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Derek Caney)