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The Western Union Company  (NYSE:WU)
Q3 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Nov. 01, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good afternoon, and welcome to The Western Union Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in listen-only mode. (Operator Instructions) After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. (Operator Instructions) Please note this event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mike Salop, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead sir.

Michael Salop -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you, Laura. On today's call, we will discuss the company's 2018 third quarter results and then we will take your questions. The slides that accompany this call and webcast can be found at westernunion.com under the Investor Relations tab and will remain available after the call. Additional operational statistics have been provided in supplemental tables with our press release.

Today's call is being recorded and our comments include forward-looking statements. Please refer to the cautionary language in the earnings release and in Western Union's filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission, including the 2017 Form 10-K, for additional information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements.

During the call, we will discuss some items that do not conform to generally accepted accounting principles. We have reconciled those items to the most comparable GAAP measures on our website, westernunion.com, under the Investor Relations section. All statements made by Western Union officers on this call are the property of The Western Union Company and subject to copyright protection. Other than the replay noted in our press release, Western Union has not authorized and disclaims responsibility for any recording, replay, or distribution of any transcription of this call.

I would now like to turn the call over to Hikmet Ersek.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Mike. And good afternoon everyone. Third quarter results were solid, driven by continued double-digit revenue growth from our digital westernunion.com business and strong overall profitability, with operating margins just under 22%. Consumer money transfer and bill pay constant currency revenue trends were generally consistent with the second quarter, while business solutions delivered good improvement and returned to positive growth. Consumer money transfer indicators, remained healthy. The transactions growing 4% and cross-border principal increasing 6% in the quarter or 7% in constant currency. And our digital business continued its strong run, as westernunion.com money transfer revenue grew 19% in the quarter or 20% constant currency.

Constant currency money transfer growth was led by Latin America and Caribbean and European regions, with continued good performance from our US outbound business, offsetting declines in the Middle East, Asia and US domestic business. The price reductions that we implemented earlier in the year in key Middle East corridors are generating positive results, as we started to see transactions improvement in the region. In addition, our operating margins increased substantially compared to the first half of the year as expected and cash flow generation was solid. Overall, we remain on track with our full-year financial outlook with a narrowing of our earnings per share ranges and then increase in the adjusted earnings per share outlook.

Strategically, we made good progress on several key initiatives, including advancing our digital expansion efforts and adding new cross-border payments opportunities to our global money movement platform. Our digital westernunion.com money transfer services are now available in more than 50 countries and territories, including recent launches in Mexico and Malaysia with the capability to send to agent locations and billions of our accounts around the world. We also launched a high value service in the UK, where consumers can now send up to GBP50,000 to westernunion.com to bank accounts in key received markets. It's a part of our strategy to penetrate new customer segments in cross-border transfers.

Another strategic initiative, we are very excited about is our recent engagement by Amazon to launch a new payment option for their international customers. In this arrangement, we are leveraging our cross-border platform and network to allow shoppers to pay for online purchases in person at our agent locations in select countries for now. This will provide access to online shopping for millions of potential Amazon customers, who will be able to shop global and pay local. It is just one example of how we are leveraging our unique global platform in new ways, bringing value to partners to our technology stack API, settlements engine and compliance infrastructure.

Now returning to 2018 results. Profitability was strong and consumer transactions growth remains solid. We are also making good progress with the WU Way expanding lean and agile management throughout the company, which is contributing to increased efficiency and to strong margins. And we continued to deliver shareholder-friendly capital allocation, as we have returned over $600 million to shareholders through share repurchase and dividends to the end of the third quarter. The Business Solutions results in the quarter were more encouraging. I assume you will have some questions regarding recent stories that we may be considering divesting this part of our business. While we will not comment on specifics, we have stated, we will consider any strategic options for our business units that could benefit shareholder value. We are currently reviewing various alternatives, but we will not have anything to announce at this time and there is no assurance any transaction will occur. In the meantime, we remain focused on driving the long-term performance of all our businesses.

Now to give you more detail on the quarter's results, I would like to turn the call over to Raj.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Hikmet. Third quarter revenues of $1.4 billion declined 1% or increased 3% on a constant currency basis compared to the prior year period. Currency translation, net of the impact from hedges reduced third quarter revenue by approximately $53 million, compared to the prior year, primarily due to continued declines in the Argentine peso. The decline in the Peso negatively impacted total revenue by 3 percentage points. This impact was partially offset by an increase in our Argentina businesses local currency revenue per transaction, primarily driven by the effects of inflation on our bill payments business. The increase in Argentina revenue per transaction benefited total revenue by approximately 1.7 percentage points.

In the consumer-to-consumer segment, which represented 80% of company revenues in the quarter, revenues were flat or increased 2% constant currency, while transactions grew 4%. Total C2C cross-border principal increased 6% or 7% on a constant currency basis, while principal per transaction increased 2% or 4% constant currency. The spread between C2C transaction and revenue growth in the quarter was 4% with a negative 2% impact from currency. Pricing and mix each had a negative impact of 1% in the quarter compared to the prior year period. We do not have any significant new price reductions implemented in the quarter as the 1% pricing impact primarily reflects actions taken in the Middle East in the second quarter.

Turning to the regional results. North America revenue increased 2% on both the reported and constant currency basis, while transactions grew 1%. The US outbound business delivered good growth again in the quarter, particularly to the Latin American and Caribbean countries. US and Mexico revenue growth improved, while US domestic money transfer revenue declines were similar to last quarter. In the Europe and CIS region, revenue increased 3% or 4% on a constant currency basis, driven primarily by good results from France and Spain. Transactions in the region increased 8%. Revenue in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region declined 7% on a reported basis or 6% constant currency, while transaction growth improved 2% in the quarter.

Revenue in the Middle East is being impacted by the previously implemented pricing reductions which have helped the volumes as transaction growth in the region turned positive for the first time in three years. Latin America and Caribbean region continued to deliver strong constant currency revenue growth both driven primarily by Argentina, Peru and Brazil. Revenue in the region increased 2% in the quarter or 16% constant currency, while transactions grew 11%. In the APAC region, revenue declined 10% or 9% constant currency and transactions were down 2%, with the declines driven by a number of smaller markets.

Westernunion.com continued to deliver strong growth as revenue grew 19% or 20% constant currency on transaction growth of 23%. Westernunion.com represented 12% of total C2C revenue in the quarter. Business Solutions revenues increased 1% or 3% on a constant currency basis and represented 7% of company revenues in the quarter. Revenue was driven by growth in payments, which was led by the education vertical. Other revenues, which consist primarily of our bill payments businesses decreased 9% in the quarter or increased 7% on a constant currency basis and represented 13% of total company revenues.

The Pago Facil walk-in business in Argentina experienced transaction increases and local currency revenue growth, but declined in US dollar terms and our Speedpay US electronic bill payments business also declined. The depreciation of the peso negatively impacted other reported growth by 16 percentage points, which -- while increases in revenue per transaction which were primarily driven by inflation, benefited other reported and constant currency revenue growth by approximately 9.6 percentage points.

Turning to margins and profitability, the consolidated operating margin was 21.8% in the quarter compared to 19.4% in the prior year period or 20.7% in the prior year on an adjusted basis. On an adjusted basis, the margin expansion was driven by higher incentive compensation related expenses in the prior year and timing of marketing spending, which was down 80 basis points compared to the year ago quarter. Last year's reported margin also reflected WU Way expenses and an accrual related to the joint settlement agreements.

Foreign exchange hedges provided a benefit of $4 million in the current quarter compared to a negative impact of $2 million in the prior year period. We achieved approximately $8 million of incremental savings from WU Way initiatives in the quarter, which gives us approximately $36 million of incremental savings year-to-date. On an absolute basis, we are on track to generate approximately $60 million of savings from WU Way for the full year, which is above what we expected.

EBITDA margin was 26.4% in the quarter compared to 24% in the prior year period or 25.3% on an adjusted basis. The GAAP effective tax rate was 21.7% in the third quarter compared to 1.5% in the prior year period. On an adjusted basis, the tax rate was 11.7% compared to 3.6% in the prior year period. The increase in the GAAP tax rate was primarily due to non-recurring benefits in the prior-year period and adjustments to our prior year estimates related to the Tax Act in the current period.

As we previously stated, certain of the 2017 impacts related to the US Tax Act enacted in December of last year were provisionally estimated and additional effects would likely be recorded this year. In the third quarter, changes in our estimates related to the Tax Act resulted in a $26.6 million tax expense. The increase in the tax rate on an adjusted basis was primarily due to non-recurring benefits in the prior year period. We do not have any updates yet on how the BEAT provision of the Tax Act may impact our tax rate in 2019 and beyond. We are working on restructuring our internal business flows to fully or partially mitigate the potential double taxation impacts of BEAT, which could cause our rates to move up a few points in the mid-teens based if there is no mitigation. Restructuring these flows has some complexities and requires different regulatory notices and approvals and technology and operational changes, but we are making good progress. We should be able to let you know what we expect when we provide our 2019 outlook early next year.

Returning to the third quarter results, earnings per share in the current year quarter was $0.46, which compared to $0.51 in the prior year period. On an adjusted basis, earnings per share was $0.52 compared to $0.53 in the prior year period. A decrease in reported and adjusted earnings per share was primarily due to higher tax rate in the current year period, partially offset by increased operating profit. The C2C margin was 25.1%, which compared to 23.5% in the prior year period. The margin increase was primarily due to the impact of currency, higher incentive compensation-related expenses in the prior year, timing of marketing spending and lower average retail commission rates.

Business Solutions operating margin improved to 14.2% in the quarter compared to 9.1% in the prior year period. The increase in operating margin was primarily due to the timing of spending and cost efficiencies. Business Solutions EBITDA margin was 24.6%, which compared to 19.8% in the prior year period. Operating margins for the businesses included in other was 5.9% in the quarter which compared to 10.5% in the prior year period. The year-over-year margin decline was primarily due to lower overall revenue and higher bank fees as a percentage of revenue in our US electronic business.

Turning to our cash flow and balance sheet. Year-to-date cash flow from operating activities was $518 million, which includes the impacts of approximately $120 million in tax payments related to the agreement with the US Internal Revenue Service announced in 2011, a $60 million payment for the previously announced New York Department of Financial Services settlement and approximately $30 million of spending on prior year WU Way expenses.

Capital expenditures in the quarter were approximately $158 million. At the end of the quarter, we had cash of $768 million and debt of $3.3 billion. During the quarter we returned $184 million to shareholders, including $84 million in dividends and $100 million of share repurchases, which represented 5 million shares. The outstanding share count at quarter-end was 444 million shares and we had $594 million remaining under our share repurchase authorization, which expires in December of 2019.

Based on the year-to-date results and recent business trends, we are affirming our full-year financial outlook for revenue, operating profit margin, and operating cash flow. We have narrowed our GAAP earnings per share range and increased the adjusted earnings per share range primarily to reflect the lower adjusted tax rate. We continue to expect low single-digit reported and low-to-mid single digit constant currency revenue growth for the full year. And the operating profit margin outlook remains at approximately 20%.

The GAAP tax rate outlook is unchanged at approximately 13% to 14%, but we now expect the adjusted tax rate to be approximately 12%, down from our previous outlook of 14% to 15%. The change is largely driven by improvement in maximizing your foreign tax credit position under US tax reform and certain discreet benefits. Excluding these discrete items, we would have had a normalized tax rate in the mid teens this year. The GAAP earnings per share outlook is now in a range of $1.85 to $1.92, while we have increased our adjusted earnings per share range to $1.88 to $1.95, up from $1.80 to $1.90 in the previous outlook.

Cash flow from operating activities is still projected to be approximately $800 million in 2018, which is net of approximately $200 million of outflows from the combination of tax payments related to the IRS agreements from 2011, NYDFS settlement payment and WU Way payments related to 2017 expenses.

So to summarize, we are pleased with the solid performance in the quarter and operating margin improvement. We are on track to deliver our full year financial outlook, with an increase to the adjusted earnings per share range and we continue to return significant funds to shareholders.

Operator, we're now ready to take questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

We will now begin the question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) And our first question will come from James Schneider of Goldman Sachs.

Bill Shelton -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks guys, this is Bill Shelton for Jim. Thanks for taking my question. I just wanted to touch really quick just on the Middle East for a second. You had -- you'd mentioned recently you had taken some price actions to rectify some of the competitive pressures there. Curious if you think that's the main driver of the improvement in transaction volumes you guys reported this quarter?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

It is the main driver. We took some price reductions in the second quarter of this year just to -- related to competitive reasons as well as the overall market environment. The market environment itself is quite negative just because the expats are leaving many of those markets, we have less jobs for expats in Saudi Arabia, for example. So not only competitive but also just to address the market environment and we are seeing a direct benefit on the price reduction as we've said, which is positive, Saudi Arabia in particular improved in the quarter.

Bill Shelton -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

And just staying with pricing for a second, just talking on -- just touching on Walmart2World competition, you've talked in the past about taking some targeted price actions around Walmart locations to ensure your competitive in those areas. How has that progress been and do you feel like you're now priced appropriately in those locations?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

No, first of all, we have not seen any significant impact in our US outbound business from Walmart. As you know, we have 50,000 locations in the US and our pricing actions we can do it very dedicated. And it has been -- our US outbound business has been doing very well. US outbound to Mexico business is growing. And I think we are very well positioned in the US also our US outbound digital business, the westernunion.com business showing good results. So I think we are very well priced and we're going to continue to do this, we call it street corner pricing or dedicated pricing around some locations we need it and we have done doing that for many years and we're going to continue to do that.

Bill Shelton -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thank you for the color. Appreciate it.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question will come from Darrin Peller of Wolfe Research.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Darrin.

Darrin Peller -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks guys. Hey, Hikmet, hey guys. I just want to start off on the Amazon announcement. I think that was pretty interesting partnership and I mean clearly underscores the magnitude of your network and the opportunity that you can pull around that. But I guess I just want to get more color on what the intentions are and what the opportunity is. First of all, maybe you can give us color on how many markets you see this rolling out into what kind of economics this comes with -- how does it work per transaction? And then, do you see this going into other types of e-com players as well?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

I think it shows really how global our network is and how we give access, Amazon wants to give access to millions of customers to buy their products and using our networks, so customers can buy globally and pay locally and that's a big advantage for us because we have already the platform. And the platform to agent network we did some adjustment on our systems and we are now training some of the locations and Amazon will announce in the right time, the markets they want to open. We are ready to go and we are testing and we have some real transactions stocking and Amazon will -- I'll leave it to Amazon to announce that to their customers.

Darrin Peller -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

So, I mean, I guess, just maybe if you can give us any more color on what do you think there could be in terms of incremental here? I mean, this is all really going after the under-bank dimension, right primarily?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Yes, Darrin, it is going really not under-bank. Also maybe they have bank accounts, but it's only local and they can -- they really want to use cash maybe and they really want to use their local cards. So it is really a local currency and they're going to the customers I believe that they don't have the access today to pay international payments.

Darrin Peller -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Okay, thanks guys. And then just quickly and I'll turn it back to the queue. But on the potential for any type of restructuring on -- when look like your B2B business actually improved, I don't know if that was just easier compares or something in the business, if you can give us more color on that on the growth rate? And then the potential for restructuring and strategic alternatives, I mean is it for the whole business you would explore either selling or moving around or is it part of it keeping maybe the education side, any more interesting -- any more color would be great? Thanks.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

I think as you could see, we are very much focused on our B2B business and has been turning a positive growth again. So the team is doing a good job. We have seen good growth rates in certain markets. We do still have some challenges, but as you said, the education part of the business is -- payments part of the business is doing very well. But also the trading part of business showed positive result. So the transactions and the customers are really using it. Please do understand that we don't speculate on any rumors on the markets. We will always look on any opportunity to diverse or to buy any business to drive the shareholder value. We will definitely look at that, but -- in this moment I have nothing to say more about that opportunity or about the diverse in the business.

Darrin Peller -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Okay, thanks guys.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. Thank you, Darrin.

Operator

And our next question comes from Tien-Tsin Huang of JPMorgan.

Tien-Tsin Huang -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Hi, thanks. Good afternoon. Hi, guys.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Hello, Tien-Tsin.

Tien-Tsin Huang -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Hello. Always good to talk. The margin coming in at 22%, I believe that brings your year-to-date closer to the 20% target for the year. So I'm curious if we adjust the 21.8% for the 80 bps and the timing of marketing, why wouldn't 21% margin be the new level for margin to consider going forward? It sounds like Wu Way is helping that, just curious how much of that is stable?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

It's a good question Tien-Tsin. You're right, the margin is running slightly above 20% actually for the first nine months. So depending on how the expenses play out in the fourth quarter, we can end up above 20%. We said approximately 20%, but it's running stronger and I would say we are pleased that Wu Way savings that we've been getting are showing up, we are showing you up in the margin. And Wu Way is looking for ways to continue to optimize the margin as we look at our cost structure. So it's ending up positive.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

I think also, Raj, the revenue growth will help us of course given our cost structure we know, mostly variable that will help us. But Tien-Tsin I have to say that as we disclosed last quarter the team is very much focused on the cost side, margin expansion, efficiencies and our lead management tools are helping the Wu Way activity that's really helping to find efficiencies. And this quarter we came on savings better than we expected. And so we hope that we kind of continue to that and the team is very much focused. The margin expansion is definitely something we are focused on.

Tien-Tsin Huang -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Okay. That's good. Now it seems like there's some little bit of benefit there on the margins, which is encouraging. So my follow-up, I'll ask which I think was question asked. Let's do the pace of question because that has a big impact. So just wanted to clarify for modeling purposes if it is big the peso was a 3 point drag on FX and then the inflation piece helped was a 1.7 point benefit to revenue. Is that a good ratio to consider going forward? I know the peso is so volatile, but it's clearly have an impact on the whole P&L. So just trying to understand how we should think about that dynamic of the FX and then the inflation?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, they don't always work in concert with each other, so for this year that's probably hit ratio, but depending on where inflation is it could be different, I think it would be different from each other. So we're just calling that out just to give you more visibility on that market because it's been quite volatile. Obviously, we didn't necessarily see that kind of volatility last year, but we're certainly seeing it this year. The peso has devalued by 45% as of the third quarter and inflation is probably running a little bit less than obviously and so it doesn't necessarily match with each other where it is right now.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

And one of the reason we are calling also is that as you know we have a occupational (ph) business there, which is done in pesos and that impacts the reported and constant currency variance there.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah and it's mostly -- as Hikmet said, it's mostly in our bill payments business in Argentina and it doesn't impact the consumer business as much as your number show.

Tien-Tsin Huang -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Well, thanks for calling it up.

Operator

The next question comes from Bryan Keane of Deutsche Bank.

Bryan Keane -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Hi guys. Just wanted ask just about the tax rate -- the adjusted tax rate. It sounds like you're still trying to understand some of the BEAT tax and some of the implementations. Maybe you could just walk through some of the potential changes there that you're looking at that could move the tax rate higher?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, I mean, Bryan we don't have a definitive answer yet for next year, if you think about our base tax rate being somewhere in the mid teens, this year, we've been able to get some specific benefits, some discrete benefits that are helping us around our foreign tax credit position. So that's why our adjusted tax rate is around 12%. And then the BEAT issue for next year, which is really an unwarranted double taxation as a result of the US tax reform. We are trying to change some business flows internally to alleviate some of that pressure. So our goal is to solve it not only for next year, but for the foreseeable future and that's the strategy that we're working on. That does require some regulatory approvals, some operational changes internally and so that's complex, but we're making good progress there and we can give you more color as we go into next year.

The other avenue that is not a direct control is potential legislative change or guidance from treasury on how to acquire the BEAT provisions because they -- that most agree that there were some unwarranted aspects of tax reform related to BEAT and it's creating a double or even sometimes triple taxation in certain cases. So those are the two ways we were looking at it, but we're making good progress I would say.

Bryan Keane -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Okay. And then, Hikmet, just wanted to ask about looking at your portfolio of assets, it sounds like you're looking at strategic options in the B2B business. Are there other things you're looking at to either divest or potentially even add to the portfolio of assets as you see it in Western -- yeah, on the Western Union books?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

As I said Bryan, -- good question, I will always look for an opportunity, which is in our drive the shareholder value saying that is -- we, on the market if something on the digital environment pops up, which could be interesting for us and adds to shareholder value, we will definitely look at that and that could be interested. But on the generally I would say that we are very much focused on the cross-border cross-currency money movement. And that platform as we also announced with our relationship with Amazon has a value and we're going to continue to focus on the moving money cross-border cross-currency which fits in there, it will definitely be active there also. And so I leave it there, Bryan.

Bryan Keane -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Okay, very helpful. Thanks guys.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Bryan.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Bryan.

Operator

And the next question will come from Jason Kupferberg of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Jason Kupferberg -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hey. Thanks, guys.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Jason.

Jason Kupferberg -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hey, how are you?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Good. How are you?

Jason Kupferberg -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Good, good. So just on C2C constant currency growth. It looks like it's been kind of slowing as we go through the year here I think from 5 to 3 to 2. And there is a tougher comp in Q4. So just want to know how we should think about C2C growth for this current quarter? I mean, could it slow a little bit further? I know you still got some of the pricing headwind from what you did last quarter in the -- in the Middle East, but how are you thinking about the Q4 there on C2C?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I mean, just generally, Jason, the consumer business was relatively consistent, it got little bit slower -- the strong growing areas continue to be strong like Latin America, Europe and then US outbound. US outbound in the Mexico actually improved in the quarter. They were not as strong as we saw in the previous quarter but still give good strength there. Middle East gone little bit worse but it's -- the transactions are trending positive there and that's a good thing for us. And I wouldn't expect too much of a difference as we go into the rest of the year. We're getting strong double-digit growth in our dot.com business. So that continues to be very strong.

So we feel good about the overall trends. And if you look at the cross-border principal that we've got in terms of growth that we done year-to-date, it's been growing around 8% year-to-date which is above where the market is growing based on the World Bank estimates, that's 1.5%. So we're getting good principal growth around the world and we feel good about our position at this stage.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

We feel generally good about our year-end guidance as we told -- mentioned earlier.

Jason Kupferberg -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay. And just on wu.com, I guess, the revenue growth, the constant currency revenue growth there has been lagging the transaction growth to some extent. Is that just pricing? Are there some other factors in there? And do you think 20% is sustainable for wu.com revenue growth, constant currency going forward?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. There's not lot of pricing in there (Technical Difficulty) of the business in terms of going forward.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, at times. We continue to see good growth opportunities there in any given quarter, the revenue growth, the transaction may be somewhat different. But it's -- we have a lot of things going on, more expansion around with geographies, more channels, more account pay (ph) and those types of things.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

I think -- one thing I would like to mention here is also -- the outbound business is doing good pretty well. It showed some softness at the domestic money transfer business, at the dotcom business that impacted. But besides that putting the real focus is that in our -- the outbound business from the US or from Europe. And the new markets long term, will also add on the transaction growth, which we are -- as we just announced Mexico, Malaysia, for instance. And we have about 50 countries now and we're going to focus. That's a long-term opportunity. We're going to focus expanding them, but the growth is coming very strong also from the existing markets and we are pleased with our westernunion.com expansion.

Jason Kupferberg -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Okay, thank you guys.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Jason.

Operator

Our next question comes from Rayna Kumar of Evercore ISI.

Rayna Kumar -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Hi, thanks for taking my question.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Rayna. (Technical Difficulty) We can't hear you, Rayna. Can you speak up? Sorry.

Rayna Kumar -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Hello. Could you update us on your --

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, much better.

Rayna Kumar -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Okay, great. Could you update us on your capital allocation priorities for 2019 specifically when the Board next meets, do you expect them to approve a dividend increase? And how much of your cash flow you allocate to share repurchase next year?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I won't get into all those specifics, but if you just look at our history, Rayna, you can see that we've for the last few years in a row we've raised the dividend obviously based on business performance, but we've been able to increase the dividend each year for the last few years. We've also been buyers of our stock the last years. We then typically in that $400 million plus rate for the stock buybacks. So our capital priorities have not changed. We want to invest in the business to drive organic growth. We pay more than $300 million in terms of dividends and we want to continue to improve that. We'd like to do the right kind of acquisition. And then lastly, we use excess cash to buyback stock that's at the right price. So those are really the capital priorities. We can see what we've done this year, we've already returned through the returns (ph) dividends and buyback about $600 million. So, --

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

And also I think we have authorization about almost $600 million, $594 million left in -- end of 2019.

Rayna Kumar -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

That's very helpful. Could you also discuss the drivers to the improvement in your business solutions business and could we see revenue accelerate further from here?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

We hope that we are very much boots on the Business Solutions. The team is doing a great job. Our payments business as I mentioned earlier is being well and you're going to expand that and also our trading business is doing well. The foreign exchange, trading business is doing much better. We do still have some challenges in part of the world with some volatility challenges, customer loyalty challenges. But besides that, I see a good path on the execution, much better than the earlier and we hope to keep the momentum.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. We're moving customers to our edge digital platform, as we talked about before and that continues to -- you know, those are the lower end or smaller customers and that creates more stickiness with our customer base. It also frees up our sales resources to go after the larger value accounts. We're also driving heavily into the vertical segments that are -- that have been more successful for us like education and financial institutions in more geographies. And then we're always need good global trade growth as an underpinning to have good success in this business. And the margin improvement in the business has also been pretty positive this quarter.

Rayna Kumar -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Thank you.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

And our next question will come from James Faucette of Morgan Stanley.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Hi, James.

James Faucette -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thanks you very much. I wanted to -- hi, good afternoon. I wanted to just ask quickly about your new UK large transactions offering and how do you think about the growth opportunistic type product and what the demand can look like? And I'm also wondering from a profitability standpoint, is there any difference on compliance costs et cetera?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

So I think that's a very interesting opportunity for us. As you know, we were very much focused on our fast and transactions payout in our locations. But as we know how billions of accounts globally, you could do products like that with different -- adapting our compliance programs, understanding the customer, know your customer. And as you know, over the years, we did invest a lot on our compliance programs. We have artificial intelligence, and we feel quite comfortable with our compliance and optimally in London programs. The team is doing a good job there to offer new products, the new customer segments. Obviously GBP50,000 have to come from our bank accounts and goes to a bank account. And doing that, we believe that we have a good competitive position and the market search also shows that we could compete here. And we started now with the UK, which there is a need on that. We ask the customers, they would like -- they like that product and we based on that, on the success story, we may go worldwide.

James Faucette -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

And then on the compliance issue, it seems like there is a fair amount of variance among the different competitors for cross-border remittances in terms of who's doing how much compliance and you guys clearly have been a leader in improving the compliance process. Is that still having an impact on customers and that kind of thing? Or had customers and share shifts kind of normalize or stabilized, so that that's not much of an issue as -- anymore?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

I think the customers like to use a trusted brand. In the beginning of course if you change the processes it may have an impact, right, and the customer experience changes. But over years, one thing we learned is that the customers when they move money they really like to trust and you want to trust the brand, which the money really arrives, the sender feels comfortable where you feel comfortable to send that. That has shown the customer experience, customer service show that the customers actually like our program. We are doing it much easier now for the customers, especially the second transaction like stage transaction on mobile, all new stage transaction go through a location and we do transaction. It's going very well actually.

And all this paperless transactions knowing the customer in advance and also knowing the customer in received side helps us a lot. And artificial intelligence, and what we invest in technology helps a lot. And our biggest benefit is that we are in 200 countries with 131 currencies and combined our more than 20,000 corridors. And you need definitely investment on the technology here. And so I think also as Raj mentioned before our principal amount is increasing. So we are gaining competitive worldwide market share of this year based on our programs.

James Faucette -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

That's great to hear. Thank you so much.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from Ashwin Shirvaikar of Citi.

Ashwin Shirvaikar -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Hi, Hikmet, hi Raj. Hey, how are you guys?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

How are you Ashwin?

Ashwin Shirvaikar -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Good, good. Happy November. I guess let me start with, you have this $90 million capitalization of contract costs in the quarter. I went back quite a ways and I don't see a capitalization of cost that large. So is that basically like a single contract like Amazon or were there many like super agent renewals or is there something going on in terms of accounting assumptions, any color?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. It's -- I don't see this as a run rate of any kind. We have lumpiness sometimes in our agent renewals in any given year probably 20% of our contracts are renewing. So we did renew a large agent with Safeway and we extended to the Albertsons relationship which gives an incremental 1,000 locations liably next year. And so that certainly was a key part of the agent bonuses and -- but again, our total CapEx, if you look at the total CapEx, it's historically been in the 3% to 5% range of the percent of revenue. And this year will be at the higher end of that range. But the last several years in a row it's been always in that range 3% to 5%. So I don't see it being anything different in that.

Ashwin Shirvaikar -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. Okay, so it's a kind of use of cash type of question. On the tax rate, I know Raj, a couple of questions, try to explain the uncertainty EBIT base erosion, provisions and I get that. But if the opinion that you get back from the treasury is a negative one, what are your other tax planning alternatives? I know you mentioned change in business flows, but I don't quite understand what that means. And I wasn't sure if you mentioned the timeframe to come up with this? And I'm only asking because this material, a few percentage points. So can you help from a modeling perspective?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, the -- because of the way the principal flow has happen from US outbound to our international entities and the way the BEAT provisions work without getting too technical, Ashwin. That creates the double taxation even sometimes triple taxation. So we need to change the way the principal close work in the company to alleviate some of those double or triple taxation. So that's what we're working on. Our goal is to get at least part of it, if not, all of itself for next year and beyond. We also agree that it's quite valuable for us to solve it and we're looking at that and we're making good progress. So there's not much more I can say, beyond that.

And then there are a number of other tax planning strategies that we are working on like we do every single year. And in this year our going-in position was we were in the mid-teens rate for our tax rate. We're going to end up probably around 12% on an adjusted basis. So we're always looking at some specific opportunities and we'll give you more color as we go into next year. But look at our history of how we've managed our tax rate has been quite strong. So we have some of the best people working on that and we'll give you more color early next year.

Ashwin Shirvaikar -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you for that.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks.

Operator

And next we have a question from Kartik Mehta of Northcoast Research.

Kartik Mehta -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

Hey Raj.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Kartik.

Kartik Mehta -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

How are you?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Hey, how are you? Good, good.

Kartik Mehta -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

Raj, looking at the margin, obviously exceeding expectations and you mentioned WU Way as a contributor, but is that the only contributor to the expansion you're seeing or is there more to it? I know revenue growth hasn't gotten to where you wanted it. So I was wondering if there's other drivers maybe to that margin expansion.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

For the quarter marketing spend was down from a year ago, that was about 80 basis points lower. That's certainly a key part of it. If you think about margins overall and I think Hikmet mentioned some of the factors that revenue growth is going to be a key driver because of our cost structure, which is 40% fixed. Then you look at commissions, which we've been able to do a really good job of the last few years including this year and bringing those rates down and the overall mix impact is also helping us there. Compliance costs have been the same, basically on a percentage of revenue basis the last several years. So that's quite stable. And then the Wu Way efficiencies that's above our expectations for this year. So that's also helping the margins.

So those are the various factors. And as we look at fourth quarter and next year, these are the factors that will impact margins. And as Hikmet mentioned, we are absolutely focused on doing more with profitability and trying to find better opportunities for ourselves there even in the face of the growth levels that we have today.

Kartik Mehta -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

I know you obviously can't talk about transaction or divestiture. I'm wondering if you're successful with divesting of business or to what you intend to do with the proceeds?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I mean we can't really speculate obviously, Kartik, as you said. So we'll like -- in terms of use of proceeds if we were to have some kind of a transaction, all I can point you to is our capital priorities that I went through earlier, we've been very shareholder friendly, we've given a lot back through dividends and buybacks. And we also have been investing in our business for organic growth and we would like to do the right kind of acquisition if you want it presented itself. So those are the choices we have and we'll look at those very closely to see what makes the most sense, if we were to have some kind of a transaction which there is no guarantee of that, but if we had something we would certainly look at that same lens that we do today in terms of capital priorities.

Kartik Mehta -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Sure.

Operator

And next we have a question from Andrew Jeffrey of SunTrust.

Jennifer Dugan -- SunTrust -- Analyst

Hi, it's Jenny Dugan on for Andrew.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Jenny.

Jennifer Dugan -- SunTrust -- Analyst

Hi. Just following up on the comments about lower average retail commission rates, can you talk about what's happening there, are you gaining some type of bargaining power or leverage what's driving those rates down?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think that's part of it, right? So I mean we have been very competitive in the market. As you know, we have more than 550,000 locations. That brings us a huge advantage over the years because we can't really go after any market we would like to see the opportunity where we see competitive advantage. And over this -- in the beginning as you know, as we enter in a market, you do pay higher commission, but as you generate revenue and you've been longer in the market, you have a deal with an agent, which helps us to bring the commissions down, that's a part of that.

It's not a one-time, it's a multi-year effort we started about 3, 4 years ago, and it has been consistently going down. We will sometimes in some quarters, we may have a signing bonus or some higher effective rate, but generally the commissions will continue to go down. The other part is also the mix. One of our strongest growing business is paying off an account for instance from westernunion.com to an account. And that helps also with the account payout has much lower commission rates than paying out on manual on a location.

Jennifer Dugan -- SunTrust -- Analyst

Okay, great. Thank you.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Laura, we still have one more question on the queue. So we will take the final question.

Operator

Yeah, so that question is from James Friedman of Susquehanna.

James Friedman -- Susquehanna -- Analyst

Hey guys, thanks for taking me, it's Jamie of Susquehanna. Yeah, I just wanted to ask about what is the current temperature on the compliance environment? I know you put in a lot of automated initiatives. We still thinking in the 3%, 3.5%, 4% range or is there an opportunity to scale that better over time?

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Well, the answer is yes, probably both your questions. We are still in the 3.5% to 4% range this year. And if you look at the last three years, it's been the same range same ballpark around 3.5%-ish type. And at some point, we will get leverage on our compliance spend, right? And as we grow the business as we have more growth overall, we should be able to get better leverage there because there is a portion of our compliance that's fixed in nature and then there is a portion that's going to be variable in nature that's more transactional related. So we absolutely look at it that way and we sort of stabilized out or leveled out after some initial increases a few years ago, but that's definitely how we're looking at it.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

And also artificial intelligence, if you look at that data management helps a lot to be more efficient.

James Friedman -- Susquehanna -- Analyst

And then for my follow-up. I just wanted to go back to the exciting Amazon partnership and we were getting a lot of questions about yesterday about the use cases. I know Hikmet you described some of them, the local and the global. Do you have any updated data about the unbanked population and the network because that's been a metric that you shared, but only periodically? Or just I figure out like who's going to use the Amazon relationship and what the profile might be?

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so generally as you can imagine there are parts of the world, which is -- don't have the international cards, they want to use it and that helps a lot our platform. But we are a provider to Amazon, to Amazon customers, they want to promote the product within the Amazon, so I leave it really with Amazon there. We really provide our platform to them to serve their customers. And they are focused on the, I guess, they are focused on the markets they want to launch and they want to promote it. And I really want to leave it with Amazon and I believe that you're going to hear within the next few weeks several announcements on that.

And the customer segment, I would say that there are most of the customers, they would like to go to a location, pay cash or pay in their local currencies. And -- you buy online and then you just go and then the goods you bought online, will be sent to you.

James Friedman -- Susquehanna -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you for the perspective.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

Michael Salop -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Thanks everyone for joining today's call. Have a good evening.

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

The conference is now concluded. Thank you for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.

Duration: 52 minutes

Call participants:

Michael Salop -- Senior Vice President of Investor Relations

Hikmet Ersek -- Chief Executive Officer

Rajesh Agrawal -- Chief Financial Officer

Bill Shelton -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Darrin Peller -- Wolfe Research -- Analyst

Tien-Tsin Huang -- JPMorgan -- Analyst

Bryan Keane -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Jason Kupferberg -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Rayna Kumar -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

James Faucette -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Ashwin Shirvaikar -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Kartik Mehta -- Northcoast Research -- Analyst

Jennifer Dugan -- SunTrust -- Analyst

James Friedman -- Susquehanna -- Analyst

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