NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Gobal electronic payments processing giant MasterCard (MA) - Get Mastercard Inc. (MA) Report will report fourth-quarter and full-year results before the market opens Friday. Will it be affected by the same foreign currency impacts that have hit rival American Express (AXP) - Get American Express Company Report ?
The stronger U.S. dollar took on toll on American Express' results, including a 68% year-over-year decline in its International Card Services segment. Its shares are down 7% despite beating earnings estimates.
MasterCard is likely to feel a similar impact. But MasterCard investors have to be patient -- the story is about more than just one quarter. MasterCard is building for the future at a time when global sales are expected to explode.
MasterCard stock closed Wednesday at $80.74, down 1.26%. The shares have lost more than 6% of their value this year, against declines of 3.54% and 2.76%, respectively, for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and the S&P 500 (SPX) . But the stock has an average analyst 12-month price target of $98, suggesting more than 21% gains from Wednesday's close.
Part of the reason analysts love this company is because MasterCard, headquartered in New York, has placed huge bets on itself.
The board of directors, on Dec. 2, approved a stock buyback program authorizing the company to spend up to $3.75 billion on its shares. MasterCard already had $3.5 billion under its current authorization. This means the company intends to buyback a total of $7.25 billion worth of its own stock.
In other words, as the 21% potential gains implied by analysts' price target, MasterCard thinks its shares are cheap. But they may not be for long if the company surprises Wall Street with strong revenue and earnings Friday and raises guidance.
For the quarter ending in December, analysts expect MasterCard to deliver 67 cents in earnings per share on revenue of $2.39 billion, representing year-over-year growth of 17% and 12.5%, respectively. For the full year, analysts will be looking for $3.08 in earnings per share, up 18% year over year, while full-year revenue is projected to be $9.45 billion, up 13% year over year.
What's impressive here is that, in both the quarterly and full-year projections, MasterCard is growing earnings by at least five percentage points faster than revenue. Whenever earnings are outpacing revenue, it's a sign that capital is being used efficiently and the business is squeezing every possible dollar out of each revenue it generates. In other words, there is very little waste.
For this reason, MasterCard has been able to consistently raise its dividend, most recently increasing it by 45% to 16 cents per share. It is one of the best shareholder-friendly stocks to own.
With research firm eMarker predicting global retail sales to reach $28.3 trillion in the next three years, MasterCard should be one of the beneficiaries of that growth. Investors would be wise to hold the stock.
TheStreet Ratings team rates MASTERCARD INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate MASTERCARD INC (MA) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, impressive record of earnings per share growth, increase in net income and expanding profit margins. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company is trading at a premium valuation based on our review of its current price compared to such things as earnings and book value."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: MA Ratings Report
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.