Travelex boosted by passenger traffic

a BUSY summer at Britain’s airports helped foreign currency giant Travelex report higher sales and earnings for the three months to August.

The group, which has 1,000 foreign exchange bureaux and 500 cash machines globally, said sales were up 6 per cent while underlying earnings lifted by 2 per cent, boosted by strong performances in the UK, Europe and US.

Heathrow saw record passengers in July, while a new service in the UK where customers bought money online and picked it up at the airport had also done well. The summer update came as the group published first half figures to June that showed revenues rose by 9 per cent to £356.5m, with underlying profits ahead by 17 per cent to £49.9m.

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A week ago, the consumer group Consumer Focus issued a super complaint against travel currency providers, arguing that customers needed reassurance that bureaux de change were offering customers a good deal.

Travelex’s chief executive Peter Jackson said the company was relaxed over the prospect of an inquiry, suggesting the main thrust of the complaint was aimed towards the banks and credit card groups, rather than independent operators.

Consumer Focus said it wants clearer explanation of the exchange rates offered by bureaux de change, but Mr Jackson said advertising standards and guidelines already controlled what it is allowed to put into its market- ing.

Despite the impact of the strong euro on inbound demand in Europe, Travelex said its operations in Switzerland, Italy and the Czech Republic did well.

Mr Jackson added that the euro uncertainty was more likely to have an impact on its corporate payments side rather than the airport business as leisure travellers tended to book trips well in advance.

Travelex sold its corporate payments business in July to Western Union for £606m, but the deal will not complete until the last quarter of the year.

It opened 42 new bureaux and 45 ATMs in the first half, and is now turning its attention to emerging markets with the recent acquisition of the market leader in Brazil and a 49 per cent stake in FX Africa in South Africa.