MasterCard Earnings: Power in Plastic

By Markets Fool.com

Credit card payments processor MasterCard , reporting its latest quarterly results one day after nemesis Visa, posted estimate-beating figures not unlike those from its rival. The company saw an encouraging rise on both the top and bottom lines, pushing its shares up a bit in early post-release trading. Let's dive a little deeper into the numbers.

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Good quarter, good year
MasterCard collected $2.42 billion in fourth-quarter net revenue, up 14% on a year-over-year basis. That topped the average analyst estimate of $2.39 billion.

Quarterly earnings popped bya much higher 29%, to $801 million. That equated to $0.69 per diluted share, a touch above the market's expectation of $0.67.

A notable reduction in the company's effective tax rate, to just higher than 20%, from 32% in the same quarter of 2013,contributed greatly to the bottom line. MasterCard said in a press release that this occurred "primarily due to the impact of our continued efforts to better align our tax structure with our business footprint outside of the U.S."

The holiday shopping season also delivered a positive impact. According to MasterCard, total retail sales increased by 5.5% from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day.

Zooming out to full-year 2014, the company collected$9.47 billion on the top line, while net profit was $3.6 billion. Those numbers improved on 2013's figures by14% and 16%, respectively.

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Headwinds
MasterCard might struggle a bit more this year, however. The company indicated concern that the strengthening U.S. dollar could put pressure on both revenue and profitability. It does, after all, have a gigantic footprint around the world, with roughly 60% of total payment volume coming from foreign countries.

MasterCard is eager to expand that global reach. Last week, it announced that as of March 1 it would no longer block its plastic from being used for transactions in Cuba. The company said it was the first credit card operator to make such a move.

Closer to home, CEO Ajay Banga also expressed concern that American consumers have been slow to deploy the savings from drastically lower gasoline prices of late. He said it might take up to three or four months for them to do so.

MasterCard said it anticipates eliminating about 500 jobs this year (out of a current headcount of roughly 10,000). Not all the affected employees will be lost, however; a number are to be moved into other positions within the company.

Give them some credit
MasterCard officials seem a bit overly concerned with macroeconomic developments. Americans are still spending, and on a global basis the world's consumers increasingly favor noncash methods of payment. Going forward, given the recent results and the company's overall trajectory, MasterCard's business should continue to grow at encouraging rates.

The article MasterCard Earnings: Power in Plastic originally appeared on Fool.com.

Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of both MasterCard and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.