UPDATE 1-Emerging markets lender IPF gets Mexico boost, shares jump

Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:07am EST

(Adds details on Mexico unit, CEO and analysts' comments; updates share movement)

Feb 26 (Reuters) - Emerging markets lender International Personal Finance Plc reported a 24 percent jump in full-year profit, helped by a marked rise in credit to customers in Mexico and Poland.

IPF shares rose as much as 7 percent, making them top percentage gainers on the FTSE-250 Midcap Index on Wednesday morning.

The company said total credit issued rose 15 percent to 1.05 billion pounds ($1.75 billion). Credit issued in Mexico jumped 32 percent to 196.9 million pounds, while that in Poland - its biggest market - rose about 17 percent.

"Improving economies and consumer confidence from the recessionary lows will remain a positive trend," Panmure Gordon analyst Keith Baird said in a note.

"Mexico in particular offers the biggest upside on growth given the expansion there."

IPF, which lends to about 2.6 million borrowers in eastern Europe and Mexico, reported a 58 percent rise in profit in its Mexico business.

"We are bullish on all our markets in 2014, in particular Mexico," Chief Executive Gerard Ryan told Reuters.

The company said it expects its Mexican operation to grow to 3 million customers in "the medium term" from 744,000 as of Dec. 31.

Profit per customer jumped 50 percent to 21 pounds in Mexico, where it has 58 branches. The lender said it planned to open 5 offices in the country in 2014.

Brokerage Peel Hunt said in a note that Mexico and Hungary were the stand-out performers for the company.

The company's Mexico business is on track to meet its 33 pounds per customer target by 2015, the brokerage said.

WORRIES IN POLAND

The regulatory uncertainty on IPF's Polish operations could cast a shadow on the stock until a resolution is reached, some analysts said.

IPF said in December that it was fined about 2.4 million pounds by Polish authorities over the way it calculated some of its APR (annual percentage rate) lending terms.

"We disagree with UOKiK's (Office of Competition and Consumer Protection) decision and have legal opinion supporting our view that the way we calculate our fees is correct," the company said in its earnings statement on Wednesday.

Full-year underlying pretax profit rose to 118.1 million pounds ($197.02 million) from 95.1 million pounds a year earlier.

Revenue rose 14.6 percent to 746.8 million pounds.

The lender also raised its final dividend to 5.5 pence per share, taking the total payout for the year to 9.3 pence.

Leeds-based IPF's shares were up 6 percent at 535 pence at 1032 GMT on the London Stock Exchange. ($1 = 0.60 British pounds) (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane and Gopakumar Warrier)