MasterCard (MA) - Get Mastercard Incorporated Class A Report posted higher quarterly profit than analysts expected, benefiting from lucrative international transactions as card use surged in Europe, Latin America and the Asian Pacific, while consumers stepped up their spending by 14%.
Earnings of 86 cents a share at the Purchase, N.Y.-based card-processing network compared with the 85-cent average of estimates in a Bloomberg survey.
"We have to continue to work hard to ensure that our business maintains the strong growth trajectory," president and CEO Ajay Banga said during an earnings call Thursday. "We're seeing double-digit volume and transaction growth across most of our markets."
Revenue increased 10% from a year ago to $2.4 billion, beating estimates of $2.38 billion, as worldwide transactions climbed 14% to $12.6 billion. Growth in international transactions overcame slowdowns in countries like Brazil, Venezuela, and Russia.
"The year is off to a good start with solid growth in revenue due to strong volume and transaction levels this quarter," Banga said in a statement.
"It seems like the volume statistics are fairly resilient," Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Sanjay Sakhrani said in a phone interview. KBW analysts gave MasterCard an "outperform" rating with a target price of $107.
Despite global and domestic economic instability and uncertainty, Banga said that the company expects to continue expanding and has benefited from the successful integration of recent acquisitions as well as growth in its services business.
MasterCard's digital wallet, MasterPass, which can be used on mobile devices, was important in executing new contracts and renewals with Nordea, the largest financial institution in the Nordic and Baltic region, SGV Freiberg in Germany, and UniCredit in Italy, the company said.
Still, the bottom-line benefits of revenue growth were curbed by a 25% increase in expenses, which reached $1.1 billion as the company invested in strategic initiatives and grappled with negative currency-exchange rates. Net income fell 6% to $959 million, reflecting a one-time tax benefit in the year-earlier period as well as higher pending this year on customer rebates.
"We continue to deliver against our strategy, looking to our investments and acquisitions to create a better cardholder experience, supported by a relentless commitment to security," Banga said.
In a increasingly digital world, the company's encryption and security services are helping to support new ways to pay, Banga added.
While MasterCard is already working with Google, Apple, and Samsung on payment solutions, international markets president Ann Cairns said in a recent CNBC interview that the company also wants to expand its services with social media companies like Facebook and Twitter.
"Obvious spaces are if they want to offer payments to their clients, and if you think about somebody like Facebook, it would probably be something like a peer-to-peer service," Cairns said.
Oppenheimer, which has an "outperform" rating on MasterCard, said that the company can "deliver mid-teen earnings-per-share growth for the foreseeable future." Strong U.S. retail spending is a positive for both MasterCard and Visa, the firm said.
"Continued healthy cross-border volume growth appears partially due to strong intra-European volumes," analysts at Oppenheimer said in a report. "We believe e-commerce (excluding travel) growth continues to approximate double-digits, benefiting from increased mobile commerce."
Rivals American Express (AXP) - Get American Express Company Report , which issues credit cards in addition to operating a payment network, and Visa (V) - Get Visa Inc. Class A Report posted better-than-expected results last week, beating estimates despite weakness in the global economy due to lower oil prices, the strong dollar, and low interest rates. Both companies saw relatively strong U.S. spending volumes, which also benefited MasterCard.
"The vast majority of e-commerce volume is card-based, which bodes well for the card networks over the long term," Oppenheimer analysts added that.
MasterCard rose 0.5% to $97.91 Thursday afternoon, trimming gains over the past 12 months to 8.5%. That still outpaces the broader S&P 500 financials index as well as the S&P 500, which both declined.
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