February 28, 2018 / 8:03 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Price comparison firm Gocompare's profit rises as margins improve

(Adds marketing margin, outlook, analyst estimate, context, CEO comment)

Feb 28 (Reuters) - Price comparison website operator Gocompare.Com Group Plc reported a 20 percent rise in 2017 adjusted operating profit, in line with analyst expectations, as marketing margins improved.

The company said it remained confident of meeting its expectations for the 2018, with “performance being skewed towards the second half of the year.”

Gocompare, which enables consumers to shop around for financial, travel and utility services, said its 2017 marketing margin rose to 40.5 percent from 38.3 percent a year earlier.

The company, like its rivals Comparethemarket.com, Moneysupermarket.com and Confused.com, spends heavily on marketing to help attract and retain customers.

Gocompare.com’s customer interactions, which measure the price quotes initiated but not necessarily completed on the website, rose marginally to 32.2 million in 2017.

Economic weakness coupled with rising prices and a squeeze on wages have made price comparison websites increasingly popular as consumers look to tighten their purse strings.

Gocompare.Com, which demerged from British insurer esure Group in 2016, said adjusted operating profit rose to 36 million pounds ($50.0 million) for the year ended Dec. 31, from 30 million pounds a year earlier.

Revenue rose 5.1 percent to 149.2 million pounds in the period.

Analysts were expecting adjusted operating profit of 35.78 million pounds and revenue of 149.19 million pounds, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Gocompare, which last month rejected a 460 million-pound takeover approach made by rival ZPG, said it would pay a final dividend of 0.7 pence, bringing the full-year dividend to 1.4 pence.

Gocompare.Com Chief Executive Matthew Crummack said that the company continues to take a “disciplined approach” to improving marketing margin and driving revenue growth. ($1 = 0.7194 pounds)

Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri

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