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MasterCard Keeps Charging

A blowout quarter sets off a furious rally in the transaction processor.

Mastercard (MA) - Get Mastercard Inc. (MA) Report surged 12% to a new high after posting its latest blowout quarter.

The Purchase, N.Y., credit card transaction processor made $215 million, or $1.57 a share, for the quarter ended March 31, up from the year-ago $127 million, or 94 cents a share. Revenue rose 24% from a year ago to $915 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a profit of $1.14 a share on revenue of $840 million.

Shares jumped $14.25 on Wednesday to $129.10, surging past a previous 52-week high of $118 and change. MasterCard's shares have more than tripled since its IPO last May in which shares were priced at $39 each. The IPO raised $2.4 billion.

A 70% increase in profit was fueled by customers' increased spending on MasterCard's credit cards.

Processed transactions rose 19.4% to 4.2 billion, while MasterCard's total purchase volume worldwide rose 18% to $375 million. The company's gross dollar volume rose 16.4% to $509 billion.

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"This is global momentum," said Robert Selander, MasterCard's president and CEO, during a conference call. "The growth rate in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East is just really phenomenal. A lot of us who live here in the U.S. sort of get accustomed to the fact that everybody has credit cards and they use it on a regular basis, but there are large parts of the world where cash is still the dominant form of payment."

Selander added that the company also profits when U.S. customers travel overseas.

"We make a lot of money when people hop on an airplane across the border because we process that transaction, we receive currency conversion revenue from that

and the volume goes on the card," he said.

On the other hand, the credit card company's advertising slipped 2.3% in the quarter, to $178.4 million. Total operating expenses rose 8.2% to $601 million.

Selander said the company wanted to "keep a little bit of our powder dry" as several competitors cut back on advertising.

"We think we can be more effective in deploying some of that marketing" in the second quarter, he added.