IG bullish for 2011 despite woes in Japan

SPREAD betting group IG achieved first-half revenues of £157m, up nine per cent on the previous year despite “subdued” trading and difficulties in its Japanese arm, it said yesterday.

The UK, its biggest market, saw sales grow four per cent to £83m in the six months to 30 November, up from £79.9m a year earlier, and slightly weaker than expected.

Revenues were held back by a “relatively unusual” period of both subdued trading and low market volatility from about July until November, IG chief executive Tim Howkins said.

But the environment improved in November, pulling results up by about 14 per cent on October, he said, adding that IG was gaining market share. IG’s European businesses increased revenue by 24 per cent to £27m from £21.7m a year earlier, led by Germany with 56 per cent growth.

IG, which launched the UK’s first spread-betting app for iPhone this year, said Singapore also saw revenues pushed to almost £8m from £5m the previous year.

But analysts raised concerns about an impending goodwill writedown on IG’s Japanese operation, which it bought an 87.5 per cent stake in for £122m in 2008. The Japanese business is under pressure as the regulator brings in a series of new regulations restricting leverage levels on foreign exchange and equity trades.

Howkins said the business registered a “significant” fall in forex volumes after the first limit came into force in August, and equities also faced a clampdown in January.

“Once we’ve got through these restrictions there is no reason to think the business won’t begin to grow again, but clearly it will be growing from a low base,” he said.