Credit card behemoth American Express (AXP – Free American Express Stock Report) has released better-than-expected March-period financial results. For the quarter, the Dow-30 component registered revenues of $8.2 billion and share-net of $1.33. The bottom line tally was $0.02 higher than our estimate, although the top line came in slightly shy of our $8.375 billion call.
Overall, the quarter was the latest in a string of good results. Cardmember spending continued to head higher (up 6% globally), as did net interest income, which climbed 8%. Although the provision for loan losses increased, credit quality remained high, and losses were at very manageable levels, which we attribute to Amex's affluent customer base.
Also during the quarter, management announced that it was raising the quarterly dividend payment by 13%, to $0.26 a share. The repurchase of $4.4 billion of common stock during 2014 was authorized, as well. Over the years, in our opinion, top brass has done a good job in regard to boosting shareholder value.
Moving forward, our outlook for American Express remains rosy. Although economic and political concerns still abound, both domestically and abroad, we expect that cardmember spending will increase at a solid annual rate. On that note, Amex's customers generally possess good credit scores, so healthy spending patterns ought to persist, and loan losses should remain in check. Continued, gradual improvement in the U.S. housing and job markets would likely further benefit the company's top and bottom lines.
For 2014, we are adding a nickel to our share-earnings forecast, which now stands at $5.55. This would represent an almost 14% increase over 2013's tally. Our 2015 call is $6.10, and we project that share-net will exceed $7.50 by the 2017-2019 time frame.
As for the equity, although the stock price was down modestly in after-market trading following the earnings announcement, it has performed remarkably well over the past few years. In fact, the issue has easily outperformed the major market benchmarks following the 2007-2009 recession. Going forward, we continue to believe that this stock would make a fine addition to most equity portfolios, particularly those with a conservative, long-term approach.
About The Company: Established in 1850, American Express Company has grown to become a leading global payments, network, and travel firm. It operates through multiple business segments, including the Global Consumer Group and Global Business-to-Business Group. The company sold its AMEX Life business in October of 1995 and its American Express Bank in February of 2008. In mid-1994, it spun off Lehman Brothers to shareholders and ten years later, did the same with American Express Financial Advisors.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.