July 2, 2019 / 6:39 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Funding Circle halves revenue guidance for 2019 on reduced demand

* Lender says 2019 revenue growth to be 20% not 40%

* Shares down 63% since Sept 2018 IPO

* Company says has tightened lending criteria (Adds further details, background)

By Lawrence White

LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) - British peer-to-peer lending platform Funding Circle Holdings Plc on Tuesday said it was halving its projected revenue growth for 2019 to 20%, as reduced demand for loans hit its earnings.

"The uncertain economic environment has reduced demand from small businesses and led us to proactively tighten lending criteria. As a result, revenue growth will be impacted," Chief Executive Samir Desai said.

The first of Britain's new breed of financial technology companies to list on the London Stock Exchange when it floated in September, Funding Circle shares have since fallen 63% amid wider concerns about the peer-to-peer lending model.

The lender's shares took a further hit in April when it said it would close its listed SME income fund, which analysts said had struggled with rising hedging and financing costs.

In an unscheduled update to the market ahead of its half-year results due on Aug. 8, Funding Circle on Tuesday said it has tightened lending criteria for higher-risk companies in a move that would hit loan volumes but protect investors.

Peer-to-peer lenders work by matching borrowers with retail and institutional investors willing to lend for a return, with Funding Circle focusing on small and medium-sized businesses.

The company has yet to turn a profit but said on Tuesday it expected its annual loss for 2019 to be lower than in 2018.

Reporting by Lawrence White; editing by Jason Neely and Louise Heavens

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