It isn't all bad news for financial services companies.
Sure, the debt markets are rattled, the mortgage industry has run out of steam, and banking giants are flirting with disaster, but money-transfer powerhouse Western Union
First-quarter earnings per share jumped 8% to $0.27 per share on $207 million in net income, up from $0.25 per share on $193 million in net income in the same period last year. Strip out restructuring charges, and earnings per share would have swelled 16% to $0.29 per share for the quarter. Revenue jumped 12%, to $1.3 billion. Shares popped about 3.5% so far today on the news.
As has been the case in previous quarters, the international segment was the MVP of growth. International consumer-to-consumer revenue and volume surged 19% during the quarter. To put that in perspective, two-thirds of its consumer-to-consumer business, which accounts for the great majority of Western Union's revenue, came from overseas transactions.
Management continued its share-repurchase campaign, buying back 14 million shares for nearly $300 million during the quarter. In 2007, the company scooped up more than $700 million worth of shares during its pledge to return capital to shareholders after its 2006 spin-off from First Data.
During the quarter, Western Union began its micro-lending strategy in Hong Kong. Micro loans are made to those who fall outside a lender's normal target market, but who still present opportunities for companies willing to accommodate smaller customers. This new, untapped client segment could be a gold mine for consumers taking advantage of Western Union's slew of financial products as well as for the company.
Where's Western Union heading in the next year? One of its closest competitors, MoneyGram
With a sprawling global market at its fingertips, and no sign of financial markets taking a serious toll on business, Western Union's future looks about as bright as it's ever been. Management expects between 9% and 11% revenue growth this year, and net income of $1.19 to $1.23 per share for the year, up as much as 11% over 2007.
In an industry where anything related to the financial sector is caked in fear, Western Union looks like a pretty safe bet.
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