* H1 revenues fall 14 pct at spread betting company IG
* Company curbs spending in response to subdued markets
* QE programmes seen taking edge off market volatility
By Keith Weir
LONDON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Financial spread betting company IG Group is reining in spending after a return of calm to financial markets pushed revenues 14 percent lower in the first half of the year.
IG, one of the few beneficiaries of the volatility that hit markets at the height of the euro zone debt crisis last year, also warned on Tuesday that the higher second half revenues it normally sees may not materialise if markets remained subdued.
“We are not expecting a dramatic movement unless markets get more interesting,” chief executive Tim Howkins told Reuters.
Quantitative easing programmes to support economies on both sides of the Atlantic appear to be sucking volatility out of markets.
“There is a big wall of money and that absorbs market movements,” Howkins said.
IG, the world’s largest financial spread betting company by revenues, is feeling the effect of greatly reduced activity on financial markets after the dramas of the euro zone crisis made August and September 2011 record months for revenues.
“Volatility is at a 10-year low. It’s a bit quieter than a reversion to normal. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” said Howkins, saying fresh problems in the euro zone or a failure to resolve the “Fiscal Cliff” in the United States could breathe fresh life into markets.
Spread betting allows small investors to speculate on the performance of financial markets by enabling them to bet on the price in the future of either individual instruments or baskets of instruments.
IG’s rivals include unlisted firms City Index and CMC Markets.
Revenues at IG were 169 million pounds ($272 million) in the six months ended November, in line with forecasts, and reflecting the problems of replicating last year’s strong performance.
IG’s shares were down 3.1 percent at 423.1 pence 0935 GMT in a broadly flat UK midcap stock index.
IG has responded to the slowdown by cutting around 30-35 jobs from a global workforce of around 1,000 and holding down recruitment.
It now aimed to keep its cost base flat with last year, rather than increasing it as previously planned, Howkins said.
Brokerage Numis retained its “buy” rating on the stock, saying its size should help it to prosper in the long term.
“We believe spread betting and CFD (contract for difference) trading to be in their infancy and are growth industries where IG is winning market share,” Numis said.
“Its scale means that despite the highest level of investment spend IG achieves a 50 percent operating margin where the majority of competitors struggle to break-even.”