American Express posted much higher fourth quarter earnings, beating forecasts, helped by rising consumer spending and lower credit losses.
The credit card lender and payment network said net income rose to $716 million, or 60 cents a share, from $240 million, or 21 cents a share in the same quarter a year earlier. Stripping out a penny of earnings from discontinued operations, the credit card company earned 59 cents a share. On that basis, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had forecast earnings of 57 cents a share. Revenues net of interest expense were roughly flat at $6.5 billion, beating analysts’ forecast of $6.1 billion.
American Express suffered big credit losses in 2008 and 2009 after boosting its lending earlier this decade, but losses began stabilizing last year. The company is now looking to focus its efforts on charge cards, where customers have to pay off the balance every month. In the most recent quarter, provisions for losses slid 47 percent to $748 million. Another major credit card issuer, Capital One Financial Corp also reported fourth quarter earnings that beat analysts’ forecasts.
The McLean, Virigina-based credit card issuer reported net income of $376 million or 83 cents per share, down from $393 million in third quarter 2009. Revenues were $4.4 billion, a 4.7 percent decrease from the same period in 2008.
American Express’ shares rose more than 115 percent last year, handily outpacing the Standard & Poor’s 500 index’s increase of 23 percent, as it turned in earnings throughout the economic downturn and emerged as one of the stronger financial companies. American Express shares were down 1.6 percent in after-hours trading, while Capital One was 1.1 percent lower.