MasterCard 4Q net jumps 41%

By Dow Jones Newswires
Posted Feb. 3 at 11:31 a.m.

MasterCard Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit soared 41 percent as cardholders ratcheted up spending at a record pace and the company processed more payments, spurring growth in revenue.

Still, the company struck a cautious note on the U.S. economy. In addition, uncertainty stemming from financial regulation continues to concern investors.

“It’s hard to see sustained growth until the housing market and unemployment improve,” said Ajay Banga, MasterCard’s president and chief executive, in a call Thursday morning with analysts and investors to discuss the quarterly results.

MasterCard shares recently traded down 0.5 percent to $238.11.

Gross dollar volume, or spending on MasterCard-branded cards, rose a record 11% from a year ago to $752 billion in local currency terms.

Processed transactions increased 6.3 percent to 6.2 billion during the same period. Cross-border volume increased 19%, the strongest growth in 10 quarters, as cardholders increased travel.

MasterCard and larger rival Visa Inc. are insulated from credit problems because they don’t lend to consumers. Instead, they make money from the fees they charge banks.

While new financial rules left untouched the network fees MasterCard and Visa charge banks on debit cards, they have the potential to erase billions of dollars in revenue banks earn. Investors are concerned that banks may try to offset this in ways that affect MasterCard and Visa.

Banga said MasterCard is “disappointed” by the proposal by the Federal Reserve, which seeks to cap transaction fees banks collect from merchants with each swipe of a debit card at 12 cents. MasterCard is “seeking changes” to the proposal, said Banga.

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