Visa Earnings: More Swipes on the Card

By Markets Fool.com

Ka-ching! Credit card payments processor Visa rang up another profitable quarter. The giant company reported Q1 2015 results that exceeded expectations, and it announced a key development with its stock. The firm's share price rose notably in after-hours trading following the earnings release. Here are a few reasons why.

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Growing where it counts
For the quarter (which ended Dec. 31), Visa posted revenue of $3.38 billion and netted a profit of $1.6 billion, or $2.53 per share. Both numbers were above consensus analyst estimates, if not spectacularly so -- these projections were $3.34 billion for top line and EPS of $2.49.

Both metrics saw nice gains on a year-over-year basis. That revenue figure was 7% higher than the Q1 2014 tally, while net profit advanced by 11%. According to the company, the former's growth rate would have been around two percentage points higher had it not been for the strengthening U.S. dollar.

Visa is, after all, a global company that processes a great deal of transactions made outside American borders. During the quarter, almost half of its nearly $1.2 trillion in nominal payments volume came from abroad. That proportion is essentially unchanged from that of Q1 2014.

Nominal payments volume, by the way, was 10% higher on a year-over-year basis, roughly in line with the revenue and net profit growth figures.

Meanwhile, the company's free cash flow rose by 17% to nearly $1.7 billion. The higher amount will come in handy, as the day before the results were announced the firm declared its habitual once-per-year raise in its quarterly dividend. The new amount is 20% higher, at $0.48 per share.

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Continued improvement?
Visa expects the good times to last. It reaffirmed its existing guidance for full-year 2015.

Specifically, this means annual net revenue growth in the low double digits on a U.S. dollar basis (i.e., not adjusted for currency movements, which, as with Q1, are expected to amount to around negative two percentage points).

The company didn't provide a precise estimate for bottom line; the closest it came in the profitability sphere is anticipated annual EPS growth, which it believes will be in the mid-teens in terms of percentage. For operating margin, the firm anticipates it will land in the mid-60% range; for Q1 this figure was 66%.

Quartering this quarter
Visa also announced that it will enact a 4-for-1 stock split, to take effect on March 18. This will take the form of a dividend, with stockholders receiving three additional shares for every share they hold. Those possessing their stock as of the close of business on February 13 -- the "record date" -- will be eligible for this payout.

Investors need to be aware that, with any split, the value of their holding will not change. Stock splits are simply divisions of existing shares, typically serving as psychological devices to make a company's stock seem more reasonably priced.

Mission accomplished with Visa's move. On Thursday the stock closed at $248; the 4-for-1 split would price the stock at $62 per share.

Good-bye to cash
The times are good for digital payment processors, with the world continuing its determined march away from cash transactions. As one of the two giant global processors -- the other being MasterCard -- Visa is clearly benefiting from this trend and should continue to do so. We should expect continued improvement from the company during the course of this year.



The article Visa Earnings: More Swipes on the Card 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.