Spreadbetter Plus500 posts five-fold jump in first-quarter core earnings

Reporting by Arathy S Nair

British spreadbetting company Plus500 Ltd reported a five-fold jump in its first-quarter core earnings on Tuesday, helped by a spike in customer numbers seeking to cash in on the crypto-currency trading boom.

British online trading platforms signed up record numbers of customers last year, partly due to a rise in demand to trade soaring prices of virtual currency like Bitcoin, and despite tighter regulatory supervision of the spreadbetting industry, which involves betting on price moves of a security.

Shares in the company rose as much as 15 percent to a record high of 1,620 pence, making the stock one of the highest gainers on the London Stock Exchange.

Plus500 signed up 72,960 new customers in the quarter ended March 31, compared to 22,210 new customers a year earlier. The number of active customers also rose to 218,187 from 71,827 a year ago.

Core earnings rose to $237.3 million (172.5 million pounds) from $45.8 million, while revenue surged nearly four times to $297.3 million.

Plus500 said the high levels of new customer sign ups it saw in the first quarter had returned to more typical levels in the last two months, adding that it did not expect the first quarter growth to be repeated in the remainder of the year.

The company, which provides an online trading platform for retail customers to trade contracts for differences (CFDs), had said in February it expected 2018 revenue to be significantly ahead of market expectations.

The board on Tuesday reiterated the same expectation for forecast-beating financial performance for the year, without providing details on new targets, citing the company’s low cost base and flexible business model.

The European Union’s securities watchdog said last month it would ban ‘binary’ options sales to retail clients and restrict the sales of CFDs to protect investors from significant losses, knocking shares in Britain’s spreadbetters.

Plus 500 said on Tuesday it had also started a process to look at whether its experienced customers could be reclassified as professional investors, and retain the right to trade using higher leverage.

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