American Express Management Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

American Express (AXP)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 18, 2012 5:00 pm ET


Rick Petrino -

Daniel T. Henry - Chief Financial officer, Executive Vice President and Member of Operating Committee

Donald Fandetti - Research Analyst

Kenneth Bruce - Research Analyst


Brian Foran - Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division

Donald Fandetti - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

David S. Hochstim - The Buckingham Research Group Incorporated

John W. Stilmar - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Bradley G. Ball - Evercore Partners Inc., Research Division

Robert P. Napoli - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

Craig J. Maurer - Credit Agricole Securities (USA) Inc., Research Division

Sanjay Sakhrani - Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division

Richard B. Shane - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Mark C. DeVries - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Kenneth Bruce - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Moshe Orenbuch - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division



Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the American Express First Quarter 2012 Earnings Release. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, today's call is being recorded. I will now like to turn the conference over to Rick Petrino. Please go ahead.

Rick Petrino

Thank you. Welcome, and thanks, everyone, for joining today's call. Before I turn it over to Dan Henry, I want to remind you that the discussion today contains certain forward-looking statements about the company's future financial performance and business prospects, which are subject to risks and uncertainties and speak only as of today. The words believe, expect, anticipate, estimate, optimistic, intend, plan, aim, will, should, could, likely and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those forward-looking statements, including the company's financial and other goals, are set forth within today's earnings press release and earnings supplement, which were filed in an 8-K report and in the company's 2010 10-K report already on file with the SEC.

In the first quarter 2012 earnings release and earnings supplement, as well as the presentation slides, all of which are now posted on our website at We have provided information that describes certain non-GAAP financial measures used by the company and the comparable GAAP financial information. We encourage you to review that information in conjunction with today's discussion.

Today's discussion will begin with Dan Henry, Executive Vice President and CFO, who will review some key points related to the quarter's earnings through the series of slides included with the earnings documents distributed and provide some brief summary comments. Once Dan completes his remarks, we will move to Q&A.

With that, let me turn the discussion over to Dan.

Daniel T. Henry

Okay. Thanks, Rick. So I will start on Slide 2. So revenue net of interest expense for the quarter was $7.6 billion. That's 8% higher than the first quarter of last year. On an FX-adjusted basis, revenue increased 9%. Net income came in at $1,256,000,000. Diluted EPS is $1.07, that's up 10% from last year. And our return on average equity is at 27%. The decrease in shares outstanding that you see is a reflection of our share buyback program.

Moving to Slide 3, which are our metric performance, billed business came in at $211 billion. That's an increase of 12% year-over-year and 13% on an FX-adjusted basis. So this year, actually, we have a benefit, we think, from leap year, an extra day. So I would characterize our growth as generally in line with the fourth quarter of 2011, which had growth of about 11%. Cards-in-force is up to 98 million. That's a 7% increase from last year. Cards issued by GNS partners grew 16%. Proprietary cards grew 2%, and so we're up about 1.3 million cards compared to the fourth quarter of 2011.

Average basic card member spending is up 10%. That's continued high engagement by our customers. Loans came in at $60 billion. That's up 4% as it's growing gradually, although I note that spending on lending products is growing faster. And travel sales are up modestly.

If we move to Slide 4, so this is billed business growth by region. So each region is up modestly, reflecting, I think, again the fact that we had a leap year this year. Excluding that, the growth rates by region are reasonably stable with the fourth quarter.

Europe had a growth rate of 6% in this first quarter. In Northern Europe, the growth rates were higher. Germany, for instance, grew at 8%. The U.K. also grew at 8%. Southern Europe was somewhat weaker, low single-digit growth. Spain, for instance, grew at 2%. The growth in each region is similar to what we saw in the fourth quarter of last year.

Moving to Slide 5, so this is billed business growth by segment. So the red line is the total company, and that's at 12%. GNS is the yellow line and continues to be somewhat above the average for the company, and it grew at 17%. International Consumer is the light blue square line, and it's slightly less than the company average coming in at 9% FX adjusted. And that was influenced by the lower growth rate in Europe. U.S. Consumer is the dark blue diamond line, and Global Corporate Services, the green triangle. Here, growth rates are similar to the total company.

Moving over to Slide 6, so this is lending billed business compared to managed loan growth. So the solid line is the growth rate for spending on lending products. The growth in spending on lending products is in line with the overall growth rate in billed business. The dotted line is the growth rate in loans. So we continue to see a difference in the growth rate on lending spending and ending loans, though this gap is narrowing. The relative ratios of growth rates going forward will be a function of lending customers' behavior in the future. I would note, and this is not on the slide, but I note that the net interest yield on loans was 9.2% this quarter, and that's the same as the first quarter of 2011.

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