Why Bradford-based Provident Financial is repaying furlough money

Sub-prime lender Provident Financial has pledged to repay employee furlough cash to the Government as it said first-half losses were not as bad as feared amid the pandemic.

Malcolm Le May, CEO of Provident Financial, says: The first six months of this year have been the most difficult and testing in my career."

The Bradford-based group swung to an underlying pre-tax loss of £32.6m for the first six months of 2020, against profits of £80.4m a year ago.

Its doorstep lending arm took the hardest hit, with losses more than doubling to £37.6m, though its Vanquis Bank and Moneybarn businesses remained profitable.

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The group booked impairment charges of £240.3m, though it said losses were better than it had internally braced for at the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

Malcolm Le May, CEO of Provident Financial, said: "The first six months of this year have been the most difficult and testing in my career.

"However, I am very pleased with how well the group has responded to the challenges brought about by Covid-19, and how effectively we have operated.

"We are reporting an adjusted loss before tax for the period of £32.6m, this result is better than our initial view of Covid-19's potential impact on our businesses."

He added: "Looking forward, our strong financial position will mean that we can keep helping, and responsibly lending to, our customers, many of whom are key workers, as we, and they, face the challenge of furlough support ending and unemployment rising in the coming months.

"Provident Financial has performed robustly in the first half of the year because we focused on our customers, colleagues and strengthening our balance sheet for the challenges the pandemic would bring.

"In fact financial and operational performance were better than expected, and therefore we have decided to repay all furlough support to the government.

"We believe this is the right thing to do, and on behalf of customers have also advocated the government should support wider funding for the sector.

"Our market will grow due to the pandemic, but at present it appears the supply of credit into the market is decreasing, which cannot be a good outcome for customers, nor a public policy one for the UK."

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James Mitchinson