Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. posted record fourth-quarter revenue while profits soared nearly 70% from a year earlier, the debt buyer and collection agency announced Tuesday.

The Norfolk, Va.-based company earned net income of $20.6 million for the quarter ended Dec. 31, up 66.1% from $12.4 million a year earlier. Revenue was up 37.7%, to $100.8 million from $73.2 million, boosted by cash collections that reached $144.4 million, up 51.5% from $95.3 million.

“[We] concluded 2010 with record financial results, demonstrating exceptional performance across our debt-purchasing business despite the still-weakened economy,” Steven D. Fredrickson, chairman, president and CEO, noted in a press release. “Our disciplined approach to underwriting together with our consistent and continued efforts to improve the efficiency of our collections operations helped drive record results in cash collections, cash receipts, revenue and earnings both in the fourth quarter and for the full year.”

Portfolio Recovery Associates is the sixth-largest U.S. debt buyer based on annual revenue, according to research by Collections & Credit Risk.

For the entire year, net income rose 65.9%, to $73.5 million from $44.3 million in 2009. Revenue was up 32.6%, to $372.7 million from $281.1 million.

The debt buyer paid $85.5 million during the quarter to purchase bad-debt portfolios with a face value of $1.87 billion. It acquired the portfolios from 11 different sellers. The company paid a record $367.4 million for bad-debt portfolios with a face value of $6.80 billion over the course of the whole year. 

The company last month announced that its government subsidiaries - PRA Government Services LLC and MuniServices LLC - will merge and operate under the name PRA Government Services (see story).

On Monday, debt buyer and collection agency Encore Capital Group Inc., posted market-beating profits that were also helped by a rise in gross collections (see story).

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