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Standalone Experian margins growing.

Byline: By Clara Ferreira-Marques Special Correspondent

Credit information firm Experian Group met forecasts with a 16 per cent rise in first-half profit, as growing margins were partly offset by real-estate venture FARES, hit by a weaker US mortgage market.

In its first results since it was spun out of conglomerate GUS last month, Experian said it would continue to eye "complementary" acquisitions, keeping to a strategy which has seen it spend pounds 42 million in the first half, acquiring credit bureaux in Canada and Estonia and a bank account validation company.

Experian, which collects and analyses credit and marketing data, said earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) totalled pounds 205 million for the six months to September, excluding businesses sold, closed or identified for closure.

Profit from its key Americas business climbed 17 per cent to pounds 142.8 million including 20 per cent owned venture FARES, with strong sales growth in its interactive business, which includes services allowing consumers to search for their credit records and Experian's online businesses.

EBIT from FARES slipped to pounds 15.8 million from pounds 21.6 million. Experian said cost-cutting and offshoring would help offset the impact of falling sales there in the second half of the year.

"We expect a further, albeit slight decline in the second half," chief executive Don Robert said, adding the venture continued to outperform the market overall. "Whatever happens we can certainly live right on through it, but right now things feel fairly stable."

In the UK and Ireland, profit climbed 19 per cent, with sales at its credit services division, which provides information to lenders, up four per cent despite a decline in consumer lending as personal insolvencies rise and banks tighten purse strings.

Sales for the group's continuing activities climbed 17 per cent at constant exchange rates to pounds 867 million, in line with analyst estimates provided by the company. "We're very confident for the full year," Mr Robert said.

UBS said: "Experian results were broadly in line with our expectations. Although slightly cyclical, we believe Experian's organic growth and margin record is solid."

GUS split its assets in October, listing Experian and its retail activities, Home Retail Group, separately.

Shares closed 19.5 up aat 619.5p.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 22, 2006
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