Provident shares soar as new CEO vows to return the group to health

Provident owns Vanquis Bank
Provident owns Vanquis Bank
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Shares in trouble lender Provident Financial soared 70 per cent after the new chief executive Malcolm Le May assured shareholders that he will "sort this out" after a dismal year for the group.

The Bradford-based firm, which was kicked out of the FTSE 100 after a string of profit warnings and a collapse into the red, saw its shares rise 414p to 1,002p following the news it is raising £331m via a rights issue to meet the cost of an investigation by the financial watchdog and restore its capital position.

Provident's credit card lender Vanquis Bank has been fined £2m and ordered to pay compensation of £169m by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for failing to disclose charges of its ​​repayment option plan.

Provident also announced bottom-line losses of £123m in 2017, down from a profit of​ ​£344m the previous year.

However, Mr Le May appears to have taken control of the firm's future and has promised to sort out the firm's woes.

"I was appointed on February 2 and it's my job to sort this out.

"We've got a search out for two more non executive directors. I personally will be leading the charge for the foreseeable future to sort this out.

"We have right-sized the business. On an annualised basis, we will be returning to break even."

He rejected claims that the firm had mis-sold to customers.

"It wasn't mis-selling. We didn't articulate well enough the interest rate accrued," he said.

"It goes back to 2003 and involves 1.2 million customers. We have a record of every customer who bought it so we can trace them."

Provident announced the rights issue to boost its balance sheet and cover the cost of the Vanquis settlement, as well as an expected £20m hit from an ongoing investigation into its car financing arm, Moneybarn, over affordability checks.

The rights issue will raise £300m​ ​after £31m in expenses.

Even without the penalties,​ ​Provident's​ ​underlying profits​ ​fell​ ​67​ ​per cent​ ​to​ ​£109.1m last year. The group suffered​ ​ disruption after it launched a new home credit model in July with the aim of moving from self-employed door-to-door agents to full​ ​time "customer experience managers".

Provident said the switchover was "poorly executed".

Speaking about the ​​repayment option plan​ ​​​penalty, the FCA said Vanquis had committed "very serious breaches".

Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: "Vanquis failed to make sure customers were informed about the full cost of the ROP when it was offered to customers.

"Most Vanquis customers chose the ROP ​(​repayment option plan​​​) ​​to help manage their credit without realising instead that the product might lead to their indebtedness increasing."

However, he said Vanquis "decided now to do the right thing by acknowledging the wrong-doing and offering to compensate its customers".

The group is attempting to bounce back from a ​difficult 2017, revealing earlier this month that M​r Le May had joined as chief executive following stints at Barclays and UBS.

Its woes have been compounded recently after the launch of the Moneybarn investigation.

Mr Le May said: "When I became group chief executive, I stated my key objective was to execute a turnaround of the group.

"Today we have made progress on that objective by agreeing a resolution with the FCA in relation to Vanquis Bank and we now have a clear view on the estimated cost of the FCA investigation of Moneybarn."

He said the group would continue to "rebuild trust with our customers, regulators, shareholders and employees" in 2018, but admitted there was "still much to do" in its recovery.