UPDATE 2-Spread better IG Group's shares rise as revenue jumps

Tue Mar 18, 2014 8:31am EDT

* Q3 profit and revenues up

* Ukraine crisis presenting trading opportunities

* Revenue per client rising as focuses on bigger accounts

By Clare Hutchison

LONDON, March 18 (Reuters) - Shares in Britain's IG Group rose on Tuesday after the financial spread betting firm reported a 9 percent rise in third-quarter profit and said its full-year revenue would be ahead of the previous year.

IG's shares were up 1.5 percent at 639.5 pence at 1000 GMT, among the top gainers on the FTSE 250 index, which was down 0.5 percent.

The company, which provides online trading in shares, indexes, foreign exchange, commodities and binary options, said revenue in the three months to Feb. 28 rose to 96.7 million pounds ($161 million) from 88.6 million in the same period a year ago.

The uplift came as financial market conditions improved, with investors responding to greater clarity regarding the tapering of the U.S. Federal Reserve's money printing programme and weaker-than-anticipated Chinese economic data, IG said.

It added it was on track to deliver full-year revenue ahead of the prior year, assuming conditions remain supportive in the fourth quarter. It reported annual revenue of 361.9 million pounds in 2013.

Chief Executive Tim Howkins told Reuters IG has had a positive start to the fourth quarter, with the potential break-up of Ukraine providing opportunities to trade.

"Certainly there have been some big market moves in the last 10 days or so, which suggests the markets are keeping an eye on what's happening in Russia and in Crimea.

"How long that continues remains to be seen, but certainly the quarter has started off reasonably well," he said, noting that last year's fourth quarter was exceptionally strong and would make a tough comparison.

Full-year operating costs were also expected to be lower as hiring was taking longer than anticipated.

Howkins said the company, which is looking to bolster its technology divisions, has found it difficult to find staff with the right skills, particularly developers for Google's Android mobile software.

"You end up paying more than you want to pay to get the right skills," he said.

There was evidence that IG's strategy to focus on more active clients who produce a greater share of revenue was taking effect, with revenue per client higher across all its markets.

In the UK, revenue per client rose 24 percent, while the number of active clients sank 11 percent. IG said low value clients were responsible for the drop off.

Sales were ahead in most markets, with Europe showing the strongest growth of 19 percent.

IG said its business in Singapore and Japan was weaker due to quiet foreign exchange markets.

Howkins said the company's plans to launch a stock broking service in the second half of the year remained on course. A small pilot group of clients will test the service in the summer before offering it to more clients in the autumn, he added.

He gave no update on further geographic expansion, a central plank in the group's strategy, but said it was closer to getting its Swiss office up and running.

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