RPT-UPDATE 1-Credit-checker Experian lifts annual earnings by 7 pct

Thu May 9, 2013 2:33am EDT

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LONDON, May 9 (Reuters) - Experian, the world's biggest credit data company, reported a 7 percent rise in annual earnings, in line with market expectations, and said it would buy back shares worth $500 million.

Experian, best known for running consumer credit checks for banks, landlords and retailers, said its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose to $1.25 billion in the year to the end of March.

Chief Executive Don Robert said the company was targeting "mid to high single-digit" sales growth in the coming year, excluding acquisitions, and a modest improvement in margins.

"Our global growth programme is growing in scale and momentum, positioning us strongly for the future and helping us to withstand economic headwinds in some of our markets," he said.

The company, which holds credit information on over 740 million consumers and 70 million businesses worldwide, said the biggest contributors to growth were fraud and identity management, telecommunications and geographic expansion in countries such as Colombia and Russia.

Experian said it had also benefited from strong performances in North America and Latin America.

The company is paying a second interim dividend of 24 U.S. cents, giving a full-year dividend of 34.75 U.S. cents, up 9 percent. It plans to buy back have a billion dollars worth of shares in the next 12 months.

Shares in Experian, which have risen by over 20 percent over the past year, closed on Wednesday at 1,172 pence, valuing the FTSE-100 firm at 11.7 billion pounds.

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