UPDATE 1-Credit checker Experian lifts annual earnings by 8 pct
* Benefits from improved margins, acquisitions
* Faces headwinds from soccer World Cup (Adds details)
LONDON May 7 (Reuters) - Experian, the world's biggest credit data company, reported an 8 percent increase in annual earnings, beating expectations, as it benefitted from acquisitions and improved margins.
Experian, best known for running consumer credit checks for banks, landlords and retailers, said on Wednesday its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose to $1.31 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.24 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Chief Executive Don Robert said, however, that soccer's World Cup in Brazil, which will divert attention from the company's consumer services, and changes to Experian's North American consumer business would constrain growth in the first half.
"We expect a return to more normal levels of organic revenue growth as the second half of the year progresses. We expect at least to maintain margins for the year, to deliver growth in earnings per share and to exceed 90 percent cash flow conversion," Robert said in a statement.
The company, which holds credit information on over 740 million consumers and 70 million businesses worldwide, said it had had a year of good growth, with progress in all regions and across all its businesses.
Total revenue growth was 7 percent at constant currency rates and organic revenue growth was 5 percent. EBIT margin rose by 30 basis points to 27.4 percent.
Experian raised its full-year dividend by 8 percent to 37.5 US cents per share. (Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Larry King)
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