2-4-2017. VISA Q1 2017 (2-2-2017) earnings call was led by Alfred Kelly Jr., who became CEO, replacing Charlie Scharf on 12-1-2016. Al Kelly graduated from Catholic, Christian Brothers affiliated Iona College, in Westchester, NY, with undergraduate and MBA degrees. He worked in the Reagan White House as manager of information systems (using DOS, or Windows 2.0?) from 1985 to 1987, then held a range of important roles at American Express for the next 23 years. He has been on the VISA Board of Directors since 2014 and therefore played a role in approving the current strategy.
In the earnings call, Kelly noted that VISA strategy will remain as is, in a seamless transition with the previous CEO. He noted VISA has a talented leadership team; strong relationships with issuers clients, acquirer clients and merchant clients. It is important to learn about and address their business needs while reducing friction in and enabling digital payments. VISA is in an industry with strong growth. In developing markets, middle classes and governments are demanding payment digitization. In developed markets, ecommerce and mobile payments are displacing checks and cash. VISA is a leader in payments technology and constantly supports innovation in ecommerce and novel forms of payment digitization.
I will address the overall strategy of VISA, which describes how VISA fills a key criterion of an Eternal Company investment: the ability to extend its competitive advance into evolving new markets, in a separate post.
Following is a summary of Q1 2017 financial results. Rev and EPS exceeded expectations as accelerating business more than offset exchange rate shifts. GAAP Q1 rev up 25%, EPS 7%. Adjusting for the non cash gain in Q1 2016 from writing off the VISA Europe put, adjusted EPS up 23%. Payment volume growth increased 1-2 % in most geo regions. Cross border payment growth accelerated 2% from 10-12% globally excluding VISA Europe. Including VISA Europe impact, they accelerated 10%. Process transaction growth accelerated 15 from 12-13% driven by India and US.
Did not issue 2$ Billion in debt as panned to finance VISA Europe acquisition as well as other costs. VISA has 8$ Billion offshore, will await Trump plan for corporate tax reform which may well allow cash efficient cash repatriation. Until then, used commercial paper issuance to fund stock buyback and operating cash needs.
The only region with reduction in growth was Latin America, due to Brazil.
The integration of VISA Europe is proceeding and will continue throughout 2017. Europe represents meaningful growth opportunities, with large opportunities to displace cash. Plan to advance digital payments by rolling out tokenization, VISA Checkout, and supporting digital wallets. VISA continued to focus on local market priorities alongside client engagement. The vast majority of VISA payments volume in Europe remain under contract and is therefore protected in the short term.
The deliberate process of consultation of VISA Europe staff was completed later than expected. New hiring, investment to integrate technology with that of the international VISA system are adding expenses as planned. As cost reductions are realized and Europe clients access global VISA capabilities, earnings will accrete and value will be realized for shareholders, as planned since the takeover was announced. Equity dilution related to the purchase is being offset by accelerated share buybacks.
In India, Aggressive demonetization measures pushed by the government resulted in doubled transaction volumes but little revenue growth. Responsive to request by the Indian Government, VISA charged no fees for processing through 12-31-2016. VISA regards this as an opportunity to expand the network and acceptance internationally, focusing on building customer awareness and merchant acceptance
Kelly articulated “So.. when you consider the economics of the investment we will make in India, plus conservative pricing, it will not drive much profit this year. But this is a great year to make sure we do everything we can in one of the two largest population countries in the world to get as good a position as we can to help us over the next decade. “
I would like to make two observations on this lovely sentence.
1. It prioritizes strengthening the company competitive advance for the long term over short term profits
2. the nature of the VISA business supports long term investments such as the one mentioned because of its competitive advantage. The VISA services introduced into the developing India market will still be indispensable in 10 y. As long as VISA continues to support successful innovations in payments, while nurturing and strengthening its network security and reach, it will undoubtedly maintain its relevance and dominance in the market.