Provident Financial slumped into the red it has emerged as it warned Covid-19 had created a “great deal of uncertainty” over the supply of credit to recession-hit households.
The company, which lends to more than two million consumers not served by high street banks, reported a half-year loss of £32.6 million but said that its performance had been better than it expected at the start of the pandemic.
This has enabled it to pay back money to the government after about 10% of its staff — some 350 employees — were placed on the furlough scheme. It added that it was in a strong financial position to keep lending to its customers, many of whom are key workers.
Chied executive Malcolm Le May said the current number of 10 to 12 million adults who sit outside usual high street risk appetites will inevitably increase, but that this segment of the market will decrease as funding and capital constraints impact lending decisions.
He said: “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.”
Le May added: “There remains a great deal of uncertainty as to how the impact of Covid-19 will be felt but the group has managed well to date.”
Following guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority in April, payment holidays were offered to Provident's customers in Vanquis Bank, Moneybarn and its consumer credit division of between one and three months.
The payment holiday take-up at car loans business Moneybarn peaked at 28% of customers before reducing to 3.5% by the end of July. Overall, Provident said the take-up of payment holidays since the FCA's extension to six months had so far been modest.
The performance of Moneybarn was one of the bright spots for the company after demand for used cars rebounded strongly, possibly as people looked to avoid public transport.
Moneybarn stayed open to new business throughout April, at a time when many competitors stopped lending, allowing it to improve market share as well as credit quality. Profits for the division were better-than-expected at £2.4 million.
Vanquis profits were £11.8 million, down from £90.5 million last year after an additional impairment of £70 million from the impact of Covid-19 and the weaker economic outlook.
The home credit business reported a loss of £37.6 million, which was bigger than a year earlier but better than initially expected. Collections in July were at more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels, with 80% of money paid remotely rather than on the doorstep.