AmEx posts higher 4Q profit, revenue

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 16, 2014 at 6:44 pm •  Published: January 16, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) — American Express Co. said Thursday that its net income more than doubled in the fourth quarter, as cardholders boosted spending and borrowing during the holiday season.

The New York company's prior-year quarter was also weighed by $594 million in restructuring charges and other one-time costs.

American Express said cardholder spending grew 8 percent in the October-December quarter, which helped drive revenue gains for its U.S. and international card businesses.

CEO Kenneth I. Chenault said many consumers remain cautious about taking on additional debt, but noted the company saw a modest increase in cardholder loans.

American Express cardholders tend to be more affluent than other credit card users, which has helped bolster the company despite the slow economic recovery.

Unlike Visa and MasterCard, which only process transactions, American Express issues its own cards. When cardholders charge more on their AmEx cards, the company earns more in interest income and fees.

Despite early predictions of a lackluster holiday season, U.S. retail sales rose 3.8 percent from 2012 for November and December combined, according to the National Retail Federation's analysis of federal figures. Increased retail spending tends to favor card issuers like American Express.

Steady job gains last fall and a surging stock market made Americans more optimistic about the economy and hiring. That helped boost consumer confidence and spending.

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Jeff Campbell, American Express' chief financial officer, noted that the company's billing and revenue accelerated in the second half of 2013 compared with the first half of the year.

"We think that's a good trend heading into 2014," he said.

American Express' net income grew to $1.3 billion, or $1.21 per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31. That compares with net income of $630 million, or 56 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

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