Visa profit beats estimates as holiday shopping drives rebound

(Reuters) – Visa Inc beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit on Thursday, as its customers shopped online during Christmas and New Year holidays, driving a recovery in payment volumes from the coronavirus-induced slump.

FILE PHOTO: Visa credit cards are seen in this picture illustration taken June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/Illustration

A surge in online shopping helped the world’s biggest payment processor counter a hit to cross-border volumes from a global slowdown in travel and entertainment.

U.S. holiday sales jumped 8.3% last year to record their best growth in at least 19 years, as consumers used their stimulus checks to splurge on gifts, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said earlier this month.

Visa said total spending rose 5% on a constant dollar basis from a year earlier, after dropping 10% in the previous quarter.

“U.S. holiday spending was quite different this year, but had a similar overall growth to the last 3 years of holiday season,” Chief Executive Officer Alfred Kelly Jr said.

Holiday retail spending growth broadly accelerated in Canada, UK, Brazil and Australia, he added.

Visa’s shares gained 1.2% as the company said the number of processed transactions rose 4% and that it approved a new $8 billion share buyback program.

Cross-border volume slumped 21% from a year earlier, but improved from the prior quarter when they crashed 47%.

Kelly cited travel between the U.S. to several countries in Latin America remained strong for the improvement, with the UAE also attracting holiday-makers from Europe, Russia and other Gulf countries.

Visa joined peers Mastercard Inc and American Express Co in hoping for a uptick in travel as vaccines roll-out.

Kelly warned, however, that it might take years for business travel to recover, and trips may never recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Visa reported a net income of 1.42 per Class A share for the first quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with analysts’ estimates of $1.28 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

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