This is Your Golden Opportunity to Buy Visa

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The initial market reaction to Visa's ( V) earnings report was negative, but this could be an excellent time for investors to scoop up some of the payment processor's shares.

Shares of Visa were down 3% in afternoon trading Thursday to $197.91, after the company late on Wednesday reported earnings of $1.192 billion, or $1.85 a share for its fiscal fourth-quarter ended Sept. 30. Earnings were down from $1.662 billion, or $2.48 a share a year earlier, however, the prior year's earnings included special items that boosted earnings by $627 million, or 93 cents a share. On an adjusted basis, earnings grew from $1.035 billion or $1.54 a share, a year earlier.

Visa's fiscal fourth-quarter operating revenue totaled $2.731 billion, increasing 15% from $2.383 billion a year earlier.

Fiscal fourth-quarter EPS matched the consensus estimate among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, however, revenue came in below the estimate of $3.02 billion, which is probably what is driving the decline in the shares.

Visa said "The strengthening of the U.S. dollar impacted net operating revenues by approximately 1.5 percentage points of negative growth in the fiscal fourth quarter."

Service revenue was up 10% year-over-year to $1.385 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter, while data processing revenue was up 12% to $1.186 billion. These improvements were partially offset by an increase in client incentives to $680 million in the most recent quarter from $563 million a year earlier.

Visa's guidance for fiscal 2014 includes earnings-per-share growth in the "mid to high teens," reflecting continued share repurchases. The company bought back $1.3 billion in Class A common shares during the most recent quarter and on Wednesday announced a new $5 billion buyback program.

The company's guidance for fiscal 2014 also includes revenue growth in the "low double-digits," with a negative effect of 2% for "foreign currency impact."

Reaction among sell-side analysts was mixed, however, analyst sentiment is generally positive, with 23 of 34 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters rating Visa "buy," while the remaining 11 analysts have neutral ratings.

"Visa noted reduced purchase volume for the months of September/October, presuming a tepid spending outlook for the balance of the year as US economic recovery materializes," according to Deutsche Bank analyst Bryan Keene, who rates Visa a "buy," with a $226 price target. Keene estimates Visa will earn $8.84 a share in fiscal 2014, increasing from a reported $7.59 a share for fiscal 2013.

In a note to clients late Wednesday, Keene wrote that the multiple of 26 times estimated fiscal 2014 EPS is "a warranted premium to their two-year P/E average given double-digit revenue growth, ~20% EPS growth, stable FCF as well as limited risk from regulation and litigation settlement."

Sterne Agee analyst Greg Smith has a neutral rating on Visa, and in a client note late Wednesday wrote that the company is continuing to perform well, but that "we still do not see a favorable risk/reward here in light of competitive threats and potential regulatory-related pressures."

Regulatory pressures include a ruling in federal court against the Federal Reserve's implementation of the Durbin Amendment to the Dodd-Frank banking reform legislation, which some investors fear could hurt Visa's dominant market position.

KBW analyst Sanjay Sakhrani was upbeat following Visa's earnings report, reiterating his "outperform" rating and raising is price target for the stock to $238 from $217.00.

Despite his view that Visa's fiscal fourth quarter was "uncharacteristically mixed," Sakhrani in a client note on Wednesday wrote "Visa shares remain an attractive investment given that the company has significant leverage to a strengthening economy and defensive attributes in an economy that is choppy. We also believe the long-term secular growth trends, the company's strategic positioning in the industry, operating leverage potential and solid capital management make the company a core holding."

Visa's results were disappointing in some ways, but the company continues to post very solid growth numbers, which perfectly illustrate why investors need to look beyond the headlines focusing on the year-over-year decline in unadjusted earnings.

Next: MasterCard

MasterCard ( MA) on Thursday reported third-quarter net income of $879 million, or $7.27 a share, increasing from $772 million, or $6.17 a share, a year earlier.

Visa's arch rival saw a 16% year-over-year increase in revenue to $2.218 billion. MasterCard's results soundly beat the consensus third-quarter EPS estimate of $6.95 and the consensus revenue estimate of $2.13 billion.

"We had another good quarter with growth across all geographies," said MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, in a statement.

Smith in a note to clients shortly after MasterCard's announcement wrote that the company's growth in expenses was "rather high," but also called the results "a strong quarter all around. He has a neutral rating on MasterCard, estimating the company will earn $26.49 a share for all of 2013, with EPS rising to $7.99 in 2014.

MasterCard's shares were down 0.6% in afternoon trading to $725.08.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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