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Experian speeds growth as American data services surge during coronavirus pandemic

In the UK and Ireland, organic sales slipped 2% in the fourth quarter

Experian -

Experian PLC (LON:EXPN) said it grew faster than expected in the past quarter thanks to a strong performance in North America.

Revenue rose 7% in the three months to end-December, 2020, the FTSE 100 data collector said, or by 10% if currency swings were ignored.

Chief executive Brian Cassin said Experian is performing very well in the exceptional circumstances created by the pandemic and expects to deliver a strong performance for the financial year.

“We remain highly focused on investing to sustain this performance and to take full advantage of the recovery when it comes,” he said in the trading update.

He claimed the group played a “positive role” and that “data can be a significant force for good in helping to navigate the crisis”, though during the quarter the UK data regulator served Experian with an enforcement notice for breaches of personal data rules.

In the UK and Ireland, which contributed only 15% of group revenues in the last full year, organic sales were down 2% in the past quarter, with business-to-business down 2% and the smaller consumer business up 1%.  

North America, which was almost two-thirds of group revenue as had a much larger consumer business, grew organic revenue by 9% in what is the group’s third quarter, with consumer services up 18% and business sales up 6%.

The similarly sized Latin America business was up 13%, with its even larger consumer services business again the big contributor, including debt resolution and identity theft protection services. Taking currencies into account, however, and Latin American was down 11% on a reported basis.

Experian’s remaining geographies were down 11% on an organic basis or up 21% thanks to a risk management acquisition.

Shares in the company were up 4% in early trade but flat as midday approached, little changed since 12 months ago.

UBS noted that growth in the past quarter included a tailwind from US mortgages but for the final quarter management expect growth of 3-5% as US mortgage becomes a headwind.

Analysts at the investment bank said global consumer growth was “impressive", with membership expanding to 38mln in the US, 56m in Brazil and 9m UK, with subscriptions remaining strong and lead generation revenues accelerating.

Analysts at Hargreaves Lansdown were more effusive. “Experian’s rise seems unstoppable," they said.

“It’s core business, credit checks, should be highly cyclical – since when times are hard banks are less willing to lend and customers are less interested in borrowing. Yet it’s emerging from the pandemic stronger than even management had expected.

“In particular, the formerly distressed consumer business is flying under the new free membership model, helped by the Experian Boost which allows consumers to attach non-traditional credit data to their accounts to improve their credit scores."

However, they pointed out that despite a stronger than expected revenue result there was no profit upgrade and given a long-term gripe around the group's profit margins “it’s an issue to watch closely going forward", especially with shares trading for 32 times earnings.

   --Adds shares and broker comment--

Quick facts: Experian

Price: 2370 GBX

LSE:EXPN
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Market Cap: £21.74 billion
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