UPDATE 2-Plus500 sees customer numbers, revenues soar amid market volatility

* Plus500 shares leap by 10%

* Strong volatility contributed to robust Q1

* A trader calls the numbers “eye-popping” (Adds background on regulations, share performance, changes media packaging code)

April 7 (Reuters) - Online trading platform Plus500 Ltd nearly doubled its customer base in the first quarter of 2020, driving a six-fold rise in revenue, as a market sell-off drove a boom in financial betting by retail traders.

The company, one of the easy access mobile trading platforms which allow individual customers to make leveraged bets on financial markets from oil to currencies, said revenue for the quarter ended March 31 rose an astounding 487% to $316.6 million compared to a year earlier.

It attributed the surge in its number of active customers, to 194,024 from 97,921, to its strong offering and marketing algorithm.

“This has been achieved as a result of significantly increased volatility across global financial markets, which has in turn driven higher levels of customer trading activity coupled with an increased rate of new customer acquisition,” Plus500 said.

Shares in the company jumped 10.5% to 1,223 pence by 0706 GMT, with one trader describing the numbers as “eye-popping”. The stock has gained 24% so far this year, compared to a 32% drop for the wider FTSE 250 midcap index.

Retail platforms, criticised for allowing individuals uneducated in financial engineering to make highly-leveraged and potentially ruinous bets, have been reined in over the past three years and forced to institute more checks on customers’ backgrounds.

That has forced the firms to shift focus to professional clients who are exempt from the regulations.

Many professional traders with day jobs in the City run multiple personal accounts on Plus500 and rival platforms to make money outside of office hours, although amateur traders also continue to be drawn to the industry’s mobile apps.

Plus500 did not give details on the type of people signing up to its platform.

Additionally, as sporting events get cancelled across the globe to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, more people could be turning to financial betting as an alternative.

Rival CMC Markets last week flagged the growing popularity of its mobile app among traders working from home.

Plus500, which had already given upbeat forecast for the current year in March, repeated that full-year results are expected to be substantially ahead of current consensus.

Market volatility has surged in recent months, thereby boosting trading volumes, as investors scramble to exit their positions on fears over an expected recession in the world economy due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Josephine Mason in London; editing by Uttaresh.V, Patrick Graham, Kirsten Donovan)