Lender IPF's first-quarter profit up 50 percent

LONDON (Reuters) - Emerging markets lender International Personal Finance Plc <IPF.L> said its first-quarter profit rose by nearly 50 percent, driven by an increase in the amount of loans being taken out by customers.

The London-listed company, which lends to 2.4 million borrowers across eastern Europe and Mexico, has begun to offer longer-term loans, launching a 90-week loan in Poland and a 100-week loan in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

It is also offering reduced interest rates to its most frequent customers.

Those initiatives helped it increase pretax profit to 9.1 million pounds from 6.1 million the year before.

IPF said macroeconomic conditions in its European markets were characterised by low growth and low but stable consumer confidence. In contrast, it said economic growth and trading conditions in Mexico were stronger.

The company raised 70 million pounds earlier this month through the issue of a bond aimed at retail investors.

Shares in IPF, which have risen by more than 80 percent over the past year, closed on Wednesday at 480 pence, valuing the business at 1.2 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by David Holmes)