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Credit card issuer
MA) really saw its business take off since the middle of the last decade. As it expanded its global reach, revenue shot up from $3.3 billion at the end of 2006 to $6.7 billion at the end of 2011. Still, the divided was stuck at 60 cents a share annually throughout the growth phase. Management thought it wise to preserve most of the cash flow to help fuel that international sales growth.
These days, MasterCard is settling into a more mature phase, as revenue grew around 10% in 2012 (to $7.4 billion) and is expected to rise at a similar pace in 2013 and 2014. Yet even as the top line matures, this is still a remarkable bottom-line story. MasterCard's profit margins are already quite robust and growing higher still, thanks to a largely automated business model when additional incremental revenues flow quickly to the bottom line. Prior to last year, Master Card never earned more than $15 a share in its history before 2010. Now the company is on track to earn $25 a share this year and perhaps $30 a share next year, according to consensus forecasts.
Management has already responded by doubling the dividend to $1.20 a share in 2012 and doubling it again in 2013 to $2.40 a share. Guess what? That dividend is bound to double again, if not in 2014 then soon thereafter. Frankly, Mastercard's profits are now so robust that we may be looking at a $10 a share dividend by the end of the decade, especially as this company's cash is piling up so fast (recently exceeding $5 billion) and it carries no debt. Soon management will have almost no need to retain profits, at which point the dividend could be sharply hiked.