American Express Company - Shareholder/Analyst Call

American Express Company (AXP)

April 30, 2012 9:00 am ET


Kenneth I. Chenault - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Member of Operating Committee, Chairman of American Express Travel Related Services Company Inc and Chief Executive Officer of American Express Travel Related Services Company Inc

Carol V. Schwartz - Secretary

John Keenan -

Louise M. Parent - Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Member of Operating Committee


Kenneth I. Chenault

Good morning. Welcome to our 2012 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, and I am very pleased that you could join us today. With me on the dais is Carol Schwartz, Secretary of the company, who will assist me in conducting the meeting.

Before we begin, I remind you that the order of business and the rules of the meeting are set forth in the printed agenda handed out when you came in. Now before I comment on the company's financial performance, Carol will read a statement called for under the securities laws.

Carol V. Schwartz

The company's 2011 full year earnings release and supplement that were furnished in an 8-K report with the SEC on January 19, 2012, the company's 10-K report that was filed with the SEC on February 24, 2012, the company's first quarter 2012 earnings release and supplement that were furnished in an 8-K report with the SEC on April 18, 2012, as well as certain other related materials, including the company's 2011 annual report to shareholders, information from the company’s February financial community meeting and the slides we discuss at today's meeting have been posted on our Investor Relations website at Paper copies of the first quarter earnings release and supplement are also available here at the meeting today. The earnings release information, the 2011 annual report to shareholders, the information from the February financial community meeting and the slides for today's meeting describe certain non-GAAP financial measures used by the company and the comparable GAAP financial information. We encourage you to review all of this information in conjunction with today's remarks.

In addition to certain non-GAAP financial measures, Mr. Chenault's remarks today contain 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. Forward-looking statements often contain such words as believe, expects, estimate, anticipate, optimistic, intend, plan, aim, will, may, should, could, would, likely and similar expressions. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from these forward-looking statements, including the company's financial and other goals, are set forth in the company's 8-K reports mentioned above, in the company's 2011 10-K report and in its other reports filed with the SEC, all of which are available through our Investor Relations website.

Kenneth I. Chenault

Thank you, Carol. Let me begin today with our 2011 performance. 2011 was an exceptionally strong year for the company. We generated excellent growth in our financials while at the same time making substantial investment in our future performance. For 2011, we generated $4.9 billion of net income, EPS growth of 22%, revenue growth of 9% and a return on average equity of 28%. Given the continued uncertainty across the global economy last year, I'm very proud of our performance. Our profitability growth was strong. Our revenue performance improved on both an absolute basis and relative to our card-issuing peers. And our strong return on equity reflected the strength of our business model and our hard work to provide superior value to our customers.

Our results in 2011 were driven by the strong performance of our business metrics. Billed business, cards-in-force, average cardmember spending and worldwide loan growth have all rebounded from the lows of 2009. And our billings clearly outperformed the pace of the economy overall.

At $822 billion, billed business for the full year was our highest ever as was our average spend of almost $15,000 per basic cardmember. After several years of declines, we stabilized and then prudently grew our worldwide loan balances, consistent with our premium lending strategy. Even as we modestly grew our loan portfolio, we continued to focus on our credit quality, and we ended the year with the lowest net write-off rate among our major competitors.

On a relative basis, the strength of our performance was quite clear. Our total billings were more than double that of our nearest issuing competitor and our growth rate of 15% was the second highest among the major issuers shown here. As you can also see, we were the only major issuer to generate positive growth in average loan balances. Given that our issuing peers are dependent on loan acquisition to drive revenue growth within their card businesses, they face a high hurdle when it comes to their financial performance.

Even with positive growth in billings, these issuing peers all had negative revenue growth in their card businesses. Our spend-centric model is driven by billings rather than loans, a much stronger position to be in given the substantial deleveraging that's occurred among consumers and small businesses over the last several years. Against our network competitors, we also did well in 2011. In the U.S., our growth rates translated into a 90 basis points increase in our share of U.S. credit and charge purchase volume. This outcome has been the result of a lot of hard work in an extremely competitive environment, along with our consistent investment in both cardmember and merchant value. In fact, because of our substantial long-term investments and ongoing focus on value, we've now moved into the #2 position among U.S. card networks in terms of credit and charge spend, with a billing share of that spend that now exceeds MasterCard.

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