January 20, 2009 / 10:50 AM / 10 years ago

IG Group profit up on market turmoil

LONDON (Reuters) - Spread betting firm IG Group (IGG.L) on Tuesday posted a 21 percent rise in first-half pretax profit to 58.2 million pounds and said trading continued to be strong.

Howkins told Reuters daily revenue for the month to date is approaching the record levels seen last October, driven by intense media coverage of the financial crisis.

“Today should be a good day for account opening because once again banks are in the news,” Howkins said in an interview.

The group also said it would launch a number of initiatives in the coming weeks, the first of which will be the roll out of a new direct market access platform in Australia next week.

Shares in IG Group, which fell 37 percent last year but have outperformed many other stocks in the financial services and leisure industries, were up 15 percent at 256 pence by 1042 GMT.

UBS and Goldman Sachs each retained a ‘buy’ rating on the shares and respective 12-month price targets of 320 pence and 340 pence.

Goldman Sachs said it anticipates that extremely robust revenue growth in the first half would moderate in the second half but remain above 20 percent.

IG Group’s turnover in the six months to November 30 rose 47 percent to 126.5 million pounds with earnings per share climbing to 11.73 pence from 9.99 pence.

The group announced an interim dividend of 4.0 pence, up from 3.0 pence a year earlier.

The promise of a payout came on the same day pub operator JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) became the latest British company to cancel its dividend in order to preserve cash.

IG incurred bad debts of 14.7 million pounds during the six months to end-November as a result of clients seeing positions move against them amid heightened volatility.

Howkins said the high bad debt incurred in the first half should be a one-off with future debts returning to average levels following the introduction of counter measures such as automated margin calls.

Goldman Sachs calculated the charge for bad debts equated to 12 percent of sales versus a more typical 2 percent.

Reporting by James Molony; Editing by Paul Hoskins and Jon Loades-Carter

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