Visa Inc.'s Best Segment in 2015

Image source: Reza Luke, via Wikimedia Commons.

Card-network giant Visa claims to be everywhere you want to be, providing payment solutions that connect merchants with customers across the globe. 2015 has been a strong year for Visa, with the company working hard to keep its leadership of the industry intact. Even though MasterCard has developed a reputation for its prowess in addressing the international payment-network market, Visa's most successful segment in 2015 was its international transaction business, and the company is well-poised to keep expanding across the globe. Let's take a closer look at this key segment for Visa and how it performed so well this year.

The good news from global paymentsVisa's overall results have been solid throughout the year. For the fiscal year ending in September, Visa reported a better than 9% rise in operating revenues, and that helped contribute to a 16% jump in net income. The company experienced gains in all of its major segments, with service revenues and data-processing revenues both climbing throughout the year.

Yet the biggest gains came from the international transaction side of the business. Revenue from international transactions climbed 14% to $4.06 billion, and that outpaced growth has made the division more important for Visa's overall prospects. For fiscal 2015, international transaction revenue made up almost 30% of the company's total sales.

Interestingly, Visa had to overcome some big obstacles in order to produce that growth. Overall, the strength of the U.S. dollar ate into the sales and profits that the international side of the business generated, because international transaction revenues come from cross-border volume. For the fiscal year, cross-border transaction growth was flat in U.S. dollar terms, but after accounting for the impact of the strong dollar, constant-currency growth amounted to 7%. That's somewhat slower than the 9% growth rate that Visa produced in fiscal 2014, but it nevertheless showed resilient performance in the face of some difficult conditions in overseas markets.

What's ahead for Visa?Even with Visa's success this year, neither it nor rival MasterCard has come close to fully tapping the potential from international markets. Earlier this year, the Chinese government said that foreign payment processors like Visa and MasterCard would finally be allowed to operate within the nation's borders, opening up a potential $6.7 trillion market to the card-network giants.

Part of the problem that Visa and its peers face in become global financial powerhouses is that they find themselves on the front lines of geopolitical issues. In China, for instance, U.S. companies have long sought to gain access to the huge customer base from the world's most population nation, but they've found that the way things work in China doesn't always translate into the profitable business opportunities they had envisioned. Other problems can arise as well, such as what Visa and MasterCard had to deal with in Russia when the international community rallied against aggressive moves between Russia and Ukraine. In response to sanction discussions in 2014, Russia threatened to force the two card giants to put massive reserves on deposit with Russian banks in order to ensure smooth payment-processing activity.

There's still plenty of opportunity for Visa to expand into markets where electronic payment solutions haven't yet supplanted the use of cash and other less efficient ways of conducting financial transactions. Visa's efforts to stay at the forefront of the mobile payment industry envisions many areas of the world in which mobile-based payments will be the direct replacement for cash, skipping over the step of physical credit and debit cards. Just as many countries will never have landline-based telecom systems, Visa needs to ensure that it remains relevant in markets where no one will have any plastic cards.

Visa has worked hard to extend its reach across the globe, and its efforts in boosting the international transaction side of its business have paid off well. MasterCard remains an ever-present foe, but Visa has what it takes to claim its fair share of the global financial industry both in 2015 and in the years to come.

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