MasterCard beats estimates as card payments grow, shares rise

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - MasterCard's fourth-quarter results topped Wall Street estimates and revenue growth accelerated as more people chose card payments over cash, sending its stock up 4 per cent.

The world's second-largest credit and debit card network earned US$605 million (S$745 million), or US$4.86 per share, in the quarter, up from US$19 million, or 15 US cents per share, a year earlier. The company took a US$495 million litigation charge in the year-ago quarter.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 10 per cent to US$1.9 billion, the fastest it has grown in three quarters.

Analysts on average expected the company to earn US$4.81 per share, excluding items, on revenue of US$1.89 billion.

Cardholders made US$727 billion of purchases worldwide, on a local currency basis, up 13 per cent.

"We are pleased with our fourth-quarter results, which saw double-digit growth in net revenue, cross-border volume and processed transactions," chief executive Ajay Banga said in a statement.

Growth in businesses outside the United States led the increase in payment volume. Purchase volumes in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa grew at 19.5 per cent, far outpacing the 7.1 per cent rise in the US.

MasterCard has been focusing on boosting its business outside the US, where purchase volumes have slowed to the lowest level in six quarters.

The company is also trying to capture new business from increasing consumer preferences for digital channels over cash, particularly in Africa where mobile payments are gaining popularity.