Economy

MasterCard 4Q profit climbs 3 percent

PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) — MasterCard Inc.'s fourth-quarter earnings climbed 3 percent as rising payment volume countered a jump in expenses, but the results fell short of financial analysts' expectations.

That sent shares in the Purchase, N.Y., payment networks company down 5 percent in morning trading Friday. MasterCard said net income grew to $623 million, or 52 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That compares with $605 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier.

Earnings in the most recent quarter totaled 57 cents per share, not counting a litigation-related charge. Revenue climbed 12 percent to $2.13 billion, as consumers hit stores for holiday shopping. Analysts anticipated adjusted earnings of 60 cents per share on $2.14 billion in revenue.

MasterCard said its revenue climbed partly because of a 13 percent increase in processed transactions to 10.4 billion and a 14 percent increase in gross dollar volume. But that was partly offset by an increase in rebates and incentives that the company offered in conjunction with renewed deals signed during the quarter.

Operating expenses, which included a $95 million provision for a litigation settlement, rose 21 percent to $1.21 billion. Analysts were not anticipating the increase in operating expenses and rebates and incentives, which led to the disparity in the consensus earnings forecast and MasterCard's results.

Still, the growth in rebates and incentives is likely a positive for MasterCard's longer-term growth prospects, Barclays analyst Darrin Peller wrote in a research note. MasterCard does business all over the world, and its results are a window into how people are spending at all different income levels.

U.S. consumer spending grew during the October-December quarter at the fastest pace in three years. The Commerce Department Friday that consumer spending rose a solid 0.4 percent in December after rising 0.6 percent in November, the best gain in five months.

MasterCard rival Visa Inc., along with card issuers American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services, reported higher card spending during the holiday season. Shares in MasterCard slid $3.97, or 5 percent, to $75.79 in morning trading. The stock is down more than 9 percent so far this year.

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