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Electronic payments processor Visa (VFree Visa Stock Report), a newcomer to the Dow-30 composite, has reported results for the fiscal 2013 fourth quarter and the full year (ended September 30th). Although the company's stellar operating performance continued in the recently completed period, investors were somewhat disappointed with Visa's results (earnings in particular), and the stock traded moderately lower on the news.

The top line continued its upward march in the final period of 2013, rising 9% year over year, to $2.97 billion. That marked the second-highest quarterly tally in Visa's history, and a record for the September term. Our estimate called for $3 billion in revenues. Payment volumes increased 11% from the year-earlier term, to a staggering $1.1 trillion, as the number of transactions processed jumped 14%, to 15.5 billion.

Even while Visa's business continued to grow, its operations remained lean; the operating margin expanded 320 basis points in the fourth quarter, to an impressive 58.9%. All told, earnings advanced 20%, to $1.85 per share, the third-largest figure in company history and a high-water mark for the September quarter. Our higher share-net estimate was for $1.98.

For the full year, Visa earned $7.59 a share on $11.8 billion in revenues. The former represented a 23% improvement from fiscal 2012, while the latter marked a 13% increase. The company logged an all-time high 58 billion transactions for the year, a 10% year-over-year advance. Fiscal 2013 operating margin measured 61.5%, versus 59.9% in the previous year.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2014, management foresees top-line growth in the low double digits, with share net likely expanding in the mid-to-high teens. We expect revenues to increase 10%-15%, to approximately $13.2 billion, with earnings likely rising 15%-20%, to $8.90 per share.

The company's domestic growth has been gradually slowing for several years, as the U.S. credit and debit card markets near saturation. In response, Visa is increasingly looking overseas to expand its business, most notably in Latin America, Asia/Pacific, and the segment comprised of Central Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Too, debit cards are playing an ever-larger role in the company's overall performance, and now account for more than 56% of total transactions processed, versus less than 50% in the not-so-distant past.

Over the 3- to 5-year time frame, these good-quality shares offer something for nearly every type of investor. Visa's operating performance has proven very resilient in both good economic times and bad, and the company's top- and bottom-line results didn't skip a beat during the most recent downturn. That is because Visa generates substantially all of its revenues from processing transactions, leaving the lion's share of financial risk to the lending institutions that extend credit to consumers. Moreover, Visa has the benefit of best-in-class management, a ubiquitous brand name, and rock-solid finances (no debt on the balance sheet and a $2.2 billion cash hoard). The stock offers above-average total return potential to 2016-2018, and the modest dividend adds to the equity's broad appeal.

About The Company:Visa Inc. is the world’s largest retail electronic payments network providing processing services and payment product platforms. This includes credit, debit, prepaid, and commercial payments, which are offered under the Visa, Visa Electron, Interlink, and PLUS brands. Visa/PLUS is one of the largest global ATM networks, offering cash access in local currency in more than 200 countries. Visa’s global network, VisaNet delivers value-added processing, including fraud and risk management.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.