Profits joy for Plus500 as bitcoin pulls in punters

Russell Lynch
Spread-better Plus500 has offered bitcoin trading since 2013: AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of punters in the grip of bitcoin mania have fattened the coffers of spread-better Plus500, which cheered the City with a surprise profit upgrade on Wednesday.

The headline-grabbing surge in the crypto-currency — which pushed its value above $20,000 late last year — prompted “strong interest” in bitcoin in the final quarter, Plus500 said.

The Israel-based, London-listed company has offered bitcoin trading since 2013 but saw record new customers thanks to “increased interest in our crypto-currency offering”, according to boss Asaf Elimelech. Profits will be ahead of market hopes.

Plus500 saw 246,000 new customers in 2017 overall, against just 96,373 after three quarters of the year.

Analysts at Berenberg estimate that about 150,000 new punters signed up at the end of last year “in part likely due to the rapid growth in interest in the crypto-currency market”.

Spread-betting firms need volatility in markets to make money and are perfectly placed to cash in on wildly swinging digital currencies like Bitcoin, which jumped nearly $1000 today alone.

Shares in Plus500 soared 148.5p, or 117%, to 1030p earlier. But the industry also faces headwinds from a looming crackdown on the amount of leverage their clients can use to increase profits from their bets, which can also lead to heavy losses. The new rules are likely to be introduced this summer.