Moneysupermarket looks at expanding into US market

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Moneysupermarket.com is eyeing the US as part of an international expansion plan after unveiling a rise in profit in its first annual results as a public company.

Simon Nixon, founder and chief executive of the online price-comparison company, said the US was a big opportunity as equivalent sites there were about three years behind the UK.

"If we were in the US, we would be the biggest site," Mr Nixon said. "You could argue that there is a real opportunity for Moneysupermarket in the US."

Moneysupermarket made its first international move in October by launching in Germany, where its site compares the prices of home and car insurance.

Mr Nixon said the company wanted to use Germany to come up with "a blueprint for rolling out businesses across the world in a successful way". He added that further geographic expansion would have to wait for at least a year so that Moneysupermarket did not fall into the trap of overstretching itself as other internet companies have done.

Annual earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortisation, excluding one-offs, rose 57 per cent to £52.9m on sales of £162.8m – up 56 per cent.

Moneysupermarket floated on the stock exchange in July at 170p in the biggest internet initial public offering since Google in 2004. But the shares have mostly unde-performed their IPO price since then as investors have worried about the company's exposure to a slowdown in lending.

The price-comparison business has also become tougher as more entrants have joined the market. Daily Mail & General Trust said earlier this month it would close its SimplySwitch site just 18 months after paying about £22m for the business.

"Investors are expecting us to make some sort of profits warning," Mr Nixon said. "We are not here making a profits warning. We are pretty confident and have high expectations for 2008." He said all he could do was hit consensus forecasts regularly until investors regained confidence.

Mr Nixon said the company could grow through the credit crunch as it was diversified and did not rely on financial products for growth. In the "money vertical", personal loans and mortgages are flat so far this year but savings and credit cards have grown as people put more money aside or borrow on cards because personal loans are harder to get.

The company supplies non-financial services comparisons including broadband internet, energy and mobile phones. Mr Nixon said he would launch a new non-money "vertical" in the first half of this year and another in the second half.

The share price fell 0.75 per cent to 132p yesterday.

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