Visa profit beats estimates as consumers boost card spending

Bloomberg News
Posted2/2/2014 6:03 AM
  • A Visa Inc. credit card sits on top of credit and debit cards arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014.

    A Visa Inc. credit card sits on top of credit and debit cards arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Bloomberg News

Visa, the biggest bank-card network, posted fiscal first-quarter profit that beat analysts' estimates as card spending climbed.

Net income for the three months ended Dec. 31 rose 8.8 percent to $1.41 billion, or $2.20 a share, from $1.29 billion, or $1.93, a year earlier, the Foster City, California-based firm said Thursday in a statement. The average estimate of 30 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for adjusted profit of $2.16.

Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf, 48, is seeking ways to increase business outside the U.S., where Visa gets more than half its revenue, amid a global shift to electronic payments from cash. The firm has returned almost $17 billion to investors since its 2008 initial public offering and last year was the sixth-best performer in the Dow Jones industrial average, gaining 47 percent.

"Visa delivered a strong fiscal first quarter, posting solid revenue, net income and earnings growth," Scharf said in the statement. "We continue to focus on embracing new partners and new technology which will make our network the one of choice."

Net operating revenue increased 11 percent to $3.2 billion from a year earlier, the firm said. Payments volume increased to $1.2 trillion and cross-border volume, a measure of spending by consumers traveling abroad, also rose 11 percent, according to the statement. Processed transactions on Visa's networks climbed 13 percent to $16 billion.

Visa repurchased 5.5 million shares in the quarter at an average price of $199.56 and had $4.2 billion of remaining funds available as of Dec. 31, according to the statement.

Visa and MasterCard last month won approval for a $5.7 billion settlement that ended years of litigation with merchants over allegations that credit-card swipe fees are improperly fixed. The National Retail Federation and dozens of merchants including Wal-Mart Stores and Target have appealed the deal's approval by a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Separately, the Federal Reserve received support from a federal appeals panel this month for its decision to cap swipe fees at 21 cents, the latest development in a more than four- year battle over debit-card transaction costs. The fees under the Fed's cap are set by Visa and MasterCard.

Visa is benefiting from an uptick in consumer sentiment that has propelled purchases on cards and mobile devices. Consumer spending rose more than forecast in October and increased by the most in five months in November, Commerce Department data show. Consumer confidence climbed to 80.7 in January from a revised 77.5 in the prior month, the Conference Board said Jan. 28.

Discover Financial Services reported Jan. 23 that fourth- quarter profit advanced 12 percent to $602 million as credit- card spending and loan demand increased. American Express Co., the biggest credit-card issuer by purchases, said Jan. 17 fourth-quarter profit doubled on higher consumer spending.

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