UPDATE 1-E-wallet business drives Optimal Payments profit
* First-half pretax profit $15.5 mln vs $1.7 mln last year
* First-half revenue up 50 pct to $118.4 mln
* Shares up 14 pct (Adds CEO and analyst comments and share movement)
Sept 16 (Reuters) - Online money transfer company Optimal Payments Plc's pretax profit soared in the first half as sales at its high-margin Neteller e-wallet business jumped about 75 percent.
Optimal Payments shares were up 14 percent at 260.75 pence at 1038 GMT on the London Stock Exchange on Monday.
Key management hires, aggressive sales and marketing and better pricing helped the Neteller business, Canaccord Genuity analyst Bob Liao said in a note to clients.
Neteller gross margin improved to 83 percent in the half year ended June 30 from 77 percent a year earlier.
Revenue at the business that helps customers shop online without entering card details increased to $28.3 million in the period. (link.reuters.com/deh23v)
Revenue grew to $89.9 million from $61.9 million a year earlier at payment gateway Netbanx, which generates about three quarters of Optimal's revenue.
Total revenue rose 50 percent to $118.4 million. Pretax profit rose to $15.5 million from $1.7 million.
Optimal Payments said it will continue to assess merger and acquisition opportunities, particularly in Europe.
"If we are fortunate enough to acquire companies in Germany or Sweden, would inherit some infrastructure and have some representation in new parts of Europe which we think are attractive to us," said Chief Executive Joel Leonoff.
The company said it has partnered with Payline, the payment platform of France's Monext, on Sept. 4.
The strategy to increase investment will accelerate growth and diversify away, Canaccord Genuity analysts said.
Optimal Payments shares have more than doubled in value this year. (Reporting by Aashika Jain in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane and Joyjeet Das)
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