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Egg punters up, losses down

'Solid start to the year'

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Internet bank Egg narrowed its losses for the first three months of the year as it continues to keep a tight rein on expenditure at its loss-making French operation. News of the improvement comes as Prudential continues to seek a buyer for its 79 per cent holding in the company.

Group operating income was up 26 per cent in the first quarter (Q1) to £120.3m, up from £95.2m in the same period last year. This helped reduce the bank's pre-tax loss to £4.9m, down from £15.7m in Q1 2003.

Egg UK racked up an operating profit of £15.2m, down from £17.3m, recorded last year. At the same time it managed to add an extra 148,000 new punters in the first three months of the year.

Across the Channel, Egg France trimmed its operating loss from £19.6m (€27.6m) in Q4 2003 to £15.8m (€23.2m) for Q1 04.

Egg chief exec Paul Gratton said that its UK operation has had a "solid start to the year", and that operating profit was "in line with internal forecasts".

He went on: "In Egg France, as previously reported, our search for a strategic partner has been superseded by Prudential considering proposals for its shareholding in Egg. In the meantime we are managing discretionary expenditure tightly as we await the conclusion of this process."

In early trading, shares were down 3p (1.94 per cent) at 151.5p. ®

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