Visa tops earnings expectations, boosts dividend

Visa tops earnings expectations, boosts dividend

Visa Inc. topped earnings expectations for its latest quarter but shares dipped 2.7% in the aftermarket session as the company issued a revenue outlook that struck one analyst as conservative.

Results from the payments giant continued to reflect a spending rebound, with Chief Financial Officer Vasant Prabhu highlighting healthy domestic spending and a “faster-than-anticipated recovery in travel” while speaking on the company’s Tuesday afternoon earnings call. Card-present spending, which mainly reflects in-person transactions, hit its highest level since the pandemic began.

Visa’s
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revenue grew to $6.6 billion from $5.1 billion, while analysts tracked by FactSet had been expecting $6.5 billion.

The company has benefited from a gradual resumption in travel activity as more countries relax COVID restrictions. Travel spending in Europe, Canada and the Middle East is improving, but inbound travel to the U.S. has still been subject to restrictions, and Asia “remains mostly closed and did not meaningfully improve in the fourth quarter,” Prabhu said.

Travel-related spending is important for Visa because so-called cross-border transactions tend to be higher yielding, meaning that the company can exact better pricing on them.

Looking to the new fiscal year, “you would have to assume improvement in inbound to the U.S.,” Prabhu said on the earnings call.

There are also “early signs” that some parts of Asia, such as Singapore, are slowly starting to relax restrictions, he added in a conversation with MarketWatch. The situation in Asia is better today than it was a month ago, he said.

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Visa’s overall payment volume was up 17% in the September-ending quarter, while processed transactions grew 21%. Cross-border volume, or volume between parties originating from different countries, increased 38% in the quarter. Cross-border volume when excluding transactions within Europe rose 46%.

The company posted fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $3.6 billion, or $1.65 a share, up from $2.1 billion, or 97 cents a share, a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, Visa earned $1.62 a share, up from $1.12 a year prior. The FactSet consensus was for $1.56 a share in GAAP earnings and $1.55 a share in adjusted earnings.

For the fiscal first quarter, Visa expects net revenue growth in the high teens and operating-expense growth in the mid teens, assuming that current trends continue.

The company also shared the “assumptions” that it’s making in its internal planning, including that, for cross-border travel, “the recovery underway continues steadily through fiscal-year 2022 to reach 2019 levels in the summer of 2023,” Prabhu said on the earnings call.

“These assumptions result in high end of mid-teens net revenue growth for fiscal-year 2022,” he continued. That includes over half a point of negative impact from the strengthening dollar.

The revenue forecast struck Wedbush analyst Moshe Katri as “conservative,” and he keyed in on some of the big themes that Visa executives discussed on the call, including a growing number of fintech players that make use of Visa technology as well as the continued expansion of the company’s value-added-services business.

One opportunity that Visa highlighted was its involvement with companies that help provide access to earned wages in a break from the traditional two-week pay cycle. Gig-economy companies and some fintech companies have moved to make it easier for workers to get paid at the end of a shift or a work day, in part by using technology like debit cards or Visa Direct transfers. Since 2019, the company has more than quadrupled the number of earned-wage-access companies worldwide that use its platform.

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“I think all payroll is going to be transformed by earned-wage access,” Prabhu told MarketWatch. While the trend has gained steam among gig workers whose companies offer the option, he sees “no reason” why workers more broadly shouldn’t be able to access their pay more frequently.

Much of payroll has traditionally taken place through bank transfers or paper checks, but the rise of earned-wage services could position Visa and rival Mastercard Inc.
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for more involvement in the process.

See also: How debit cards are becoming ‘a democratizing force’

Visa noted in its earnings report that its board of directors approved an increase to the quarterly dividend. The new dividend will be $0.375 a share, up from $0.32 a share, and it will be payable Dec. 7 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 12.

Shares of Visa have lost 7.4% over the past three months, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average
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+0.04%

has risen 1.7% and as the S&P 500
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+0.18%

has increased 3.5%.

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