Virgin Money's profits up by 53% in first listed year

Close up of Virgin Money logos on branch Image copyright PA
Image caption Virgin Money's underlying profits rose by 53% last year

Virgin Money has reported a strong performance for its first full financial year since listing on the stock market.

It reported a 53% rise in underlying profits for 2015 to £160.3m.

The Edinburgh-based bank said its gross mortgage lending was £7.5bn, up 29% on the previous year, giving it a market share of 3.4%.

Virgin said its funding position was strong with record deposit balances.

Shares jumped 5.8% to 360p in afternoon trading. The shares have risen 27% since it listed in November 2014, meaning the company is worth almost £1.6bn.

Balances rose by 12% to £25.1bn, giving the bank a 1.5% share of the savings account market.

Improved confidence

The savings market had grown strongly, helped by a positive economic backdrop and "supportive" government policy on Isas, Virgin said.

It also highlighted "improving consumer confidence in the UK", which it said was responsible for the rise in demand for unsecured borrowing.

Virgin said credit card balances were 44% higher at £1.6bn, giving the bank a 2.5% market share.

It expected to increase credit card balances to at least £3bn by the end of 2017 - ahead of target.

Its growth in mortgage lending, deposit balances and credit card balances outstripped the market, according to the company.

Statutory pre-tax profit leapt from £34m to £138m last year.

Looking to 2016 the bank said it was aware of the risks related to the UK referendum on EU membership, as well as market turbulence caused by the slowdown in emerging markets and falling commodity prices.

"All of these have the potential to adversely impact the UK economy," Virgin Money said.

Buy-to-let uncertainty

Virgin said its mortgage and savings business remained the key profit driver, contributing 69% of total income last year.

The mortgage business was dominated by residential lending (83%), with buy-to-let accounting for 17%.

In December, the Bank of England's Financial Stability Report raised concerns over the growth in buy-to-let lending and the impact that a shift to the private rental sector could have on market stability.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Richard Branson

Virgin said tax and regulatory changes may make buy-to-let less attractive to investors: "These changes have added uncertainty to the outlook of buy-to-let for both landlords and lenders, particularly over the medium to long-term."

The lender declared its first full-year dividend of 4.5p a share since floating on the stock market.

It meant that Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, which owns a 35% stake in the bank, will receive a payout of £7m.

He also picked up £5.2m in royalty payments for the lender's use of the Virgin name.

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