Quarterly and yearly profits at Encore Capital Group Inc. beat market expectations, helped by a huge jump in gross collections, the debt buyer and collection agency reported Monday.

Revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 rose 22.3%, to $99.8 million from $81.6 million. The company earned $14.2 million, or 56 cents per share, in net income, up 69.1% from $8.4 million, or 34 cents a share, a year earlier. Gross collections reached $149.2 million, up 19.8% from $124.5 million. 

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 47 cents a share, on revenue of $97.23 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

San Diego-based Encore Capital is the third-largest U.S. debt buyer based on annual revenue, according to research by Collections & Credit Risk.

Revenue for the full year jumped 20.5%, to $381.3 million from $316.4 million in 2009, according to the company’s earnings release. Net income was up 48.3%, to $49.1 million from $33.1 million.

Encore Capital paid $119.1 million during the quarter to purchase bad-debt portfolios with a face value of $3.9 billion, compared with $41 million to purchase $1 billion in debt in the same period a year earlier.

The company has increased its overall debt capacity and says it has obtained an additional $50 million in commitments from lenders.

Encore Capital's shares, which have gained 17% in value since it posted strong third-quarter results (see story), closed up 2% at $23.60 on Monday on Nasdaq.  

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