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Provident Financial backtracks on home credit strategy as it launches recovery plan

Provident added that measures taken already had started to steady the business
picture of loans
Home credit lending has fallen by a third since June

Provident Financial PLC (LON:PFG) is to re-employ 300 agents as part of a recovery plan for its struggling home credit lending business.

A disastrous switch in strategy in which 4,500 self-employed agents replaced by 2,500 full time staff sparked a slump in sales and huge losses.

READ: Provident Financial downgraded ahead of Friday's trading update

The number of regional managers will also double to 24 and two new general managers be appointed.

Since June, the home credit loan book has fallen by a third to £316mln, though last month saw the rate of decline slow.

Sales fell in September, down £6mln per week compared with the prior year, though this was an improvement on August, when the shortfall was £9mln.

Collections in September rose to 65% from 57% in the previous month.

Provident added that measures taken have already started to steady the business but there would still be a big loss this year while it confirmed that the dividend has been axed.

READ: Provident Financial chief executive resigns as it cancels interim dividend and issues profit warning

“Current performance is consistent with the recovery plan developed by management and the guidance provided on 22 August 2017 of a pre-exceptional loss for CCD [home credit] in a range of between £80mln and £120mln for 2017 as a whole.”

Shares in the sub-prime lender have slumped more than 70% this year while a string of profit warnings led to the departure of chief executive Peter Crook in August.

At that time, Provident also revealed subsidiary Vanquis Bank was under investigation by financial regulator the FCA.

Vanquis Bank continues to work with the FCA in relation to the investigation into ROP or repayment option payments, Provident said, while it has appointed an agency to look for a new chief executive.

Broker Numis added that the statement shows the first sign of admission that Provident is concerned about rising impairments, since it flags that credit standards have “recently been tightened.”

“We believe the B/S [balance sheet] needs strengthening and that is before accounting for a yet unquantifiable potential liability for ROP. In conjunction with regulatory concerns, there is far too much risk to justify buying the shares now.”

Provident shares jumped 16% to 914p as fears of another profit warning proved unfounded.

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