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Cash America looking to spin off online lending business

By Neha Dimri

(Reuters) - Payday lender Cash America International Inc is revisiting a plan to spin off its online lending business to focus on its storefront operations that includes pawn.

The company's shares rose 15 percent as a spinoff would separate the fast-growing pawn business from the highly regulated online payday lending operations.

"Managing these two diverse businesses is complex and is simplified by the spinoff," Sterne Agee & Leach Inc analyst Henry Coffey said.

Payday lenders such as Cash America provide small short-term loans at high interest rates to help a borrower get to the next paycheck. But such lenders have come under increased regulatory scrutiny in the United States in recent years.

U.S. regulators in November ordered Cash America to refund consumers $14 million and pay a $5 million fine to settle civil allegations that it improperly pursued some customers' debt and overcharged military service members.

Cash America said while a final decision is yet to be made, the separation of the online business, Enova International Inc, would create a publicly traded company with about $766 million in revenue as of December 31.

The company withdrew a $500 million initial public offering of Enova in 2012, citing volatile markets. (http://link.reuters.com/qan48v)

In the event of a spinoff, Cash America said it would operate the storefront lending businesses, while Enova would run the online lending business with operations in the United States, UK, Australia and Canada.

The company said its management is expected to make a final recommendation to the board later this year and any separation would likely be completed in late 2014 or early 2015.

Cash America said it expects any spinoff to be in the form of a tax-free distribution of at least 80 percent of Enova's stock to the company's shareholders.

Jefferies LLC is advising Cash America.

Cash America on Thursday also raised its first-quarter earnings forecast, citing lower loan losses in its online loan business and higher retail sales.

The company expects earnings of $1.50-$1.55 per share, well above its previous projected range of $1.15-$1.25.

The company is scheduled to report its quarterly earnings on April 24.

Cash America shares were up 10.67 percent at $42.61 after touching a high of $44.44 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Neha Dimri in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti Pandey, Savio D'Souza and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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