What happened

Shares of PRA Group (NASDAQ:PRAA) surged by more than 30% on May 8, following the release of the debt collector's first-quarter results.

So what

PRA Group's operating income jumped 24% year over year to $60.5 million. Its net income, meanwhile, climbed 26% to $19.1 million, or $0.42 per share. That was well ahead of Wall Street's estimates for earnings per share of $0.31. 

Notably, PRA Group's cash collections rose 7% to $494.6 million, fueled in part by strong results in the company's international operations.

"PRA Group began 2020 with very strong performance building on the momentum of record portfolio purchases in 2019, investments made over the last few years, and favorable industry trends," CEO Kevin Stevenson said in a press release. "Global cash collections during the quarter were a record led by an increase in Europe after record portfolio purchases there last year."

A person pointing to an upwardly sloping line above a flat line

PRA Group's stock rose sharply on Friday. Image source: Getty Images.

Now what 

PRA's collection efforts suffered in late March as the novel coronavirus spread rapidly. However, the company said its total cash collections rose in April as its collectors returned to work, and that its support staff is productively working from home.

Looking ahead, as a leader in acquiring and collecting nonperforming loans, PRA Group could actually benefit from a coronavirus-related economic downturn. A recession would likely make larger amounts of uncollected debt available, which PRA could potentially acquire at attractive rates.