(Includes comments from CEO Joseph Saunders on conference call; updated after-hours trading.)SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) -- Visa ( V) on Wednesday beat Wall Street's earnings expectations, fueled by a large gain from selling shares of its Brazilian affiliate that went public during the quarter. The company reported fiscal-third quarter earnings results of $729 million, or 97 cents a share. Excluding the impact of the sale of shares, Visa would have made $507 million, or 67 cents a share, beating consensus estimates by 3 cents, according to Thomson Reuters. Operating revenue rose by 2% to $1.64 billion for the quarter ending June 30, meeting analysts' estimates. The San Francisco-based company said that even though payments volume was "slightly negative in the U.S.," it continued to grow on a constant dollar basis globally. Processed transactions continued to post solid growth globally, rising 8% to 10.3 billion, it said. "With little real improvement in the economic backdrop, Visa still posted solid operational and financial performance results during the fiscal third quarter," Chairman and CEO Joseph Saunders said. "Throughout this challenging time, the resiliency of our debit products and our credit products overseas continue to exemplify the resiliency and stability of our business model." While Visa increased the total amount of cards carrying the company brand by 6% worldwide vs. a year earlier, Visa was not totally immune to the global recession. The company, which reports some metrics on a one-quarter lag basis, said that as of March 31, growth in payments volume fell 5% from a year earlier to $617 billion. Total card volume fell 7% to $969 billion, Visa said.
Operating expenses fell 15% from a year earlier to $824 million. "We've seen no signs that a sustained turnaround in the U.S. is occurring," Saunders said late Wednesday on an analyst conference call to discuss earnings. However, he noted that there were some positive incremental signs. One such sign is that U.S. payment volume declines have slowed to a tight -2% to -4% range since January, Saunders said. Saunders added that in spite of the global nature of the recession, international payment growth was positively in the high-single digits through the end of June. Visa also was able to take advantage of the ongoing consolidation within the banking sector as a result of the financial crisis. During the quarter, the company re-signed a significant number of long-term contracts with bank customers. "Some of these contracts were accelerated renewals that were precipitated by banking consolidation," he said. "Our business model, while not unaffected, has proven resilient in the face of today's economic challenges," Saunders said. "We are now anticipating a slightly better fiscal fourth quarter." Among other things, Visa affirmed guidance that it plans to have annual revenue growth in the high single digits and at the lower end of a range of 11% to 15% for 2010. It also affirmed annual earnings per share growth above 20% this year. MasterCard ( MA) reports second-quarter earnings Thursday morning before the opening bell. Visa shares were falling 1% to $66.14 in recent after-hours action.
-- Reported by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.