Mastercard warns of slower revenue growth as travel growth plateaus

By Niket Nishant

(Reuters) -Mastercard Inc forecast current-quarter revenue growth short of Wall Street estimates on Thursday, saying the boost from pent-up demand for travel will diminish going forward.

The payments company said travel to most regions had recovered to levels seen before the pandemic, fanning fears of a tough environment in 2023 as the economy loses steam, sending its shares down nearly 2% to $375.11.

After the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes for most of last year, the economy has begun to show some signs of slowing down, with wide-ranging layoffs and fears of a recession spooking consumers into saving more, which is likely to impact travel growth.

“The vast majority of the regions have now reached that state where they are kind of growing at a healthy pace, but not at an accelerating pace,” Chief Financial Officer Sachin Mehra said, adding that Asia Pacific is an exception as it still has room for growth as China reopens.

“Mastercard’s payment volume growth in Q4 2022 remained strong. The question, however, is how long this momentum will be sustained,” said Kevin Kennedy, analyst at investment research firm Third Bridge.

Cross-border volume, which tracks spending on cards beyond the country of its issue and is a gauge for travel demand, was up 42% through the first three weeks of January.

But that growth was largely owed to a lower base last year when the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was spreading, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

Mastercard said it expects first-quarter revenue to grow at the “high-end of high-single digits range”, while analysts had estimated a growth of 10.7%, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Downbeat forecast overshadowed the company’s profit beat in the fourth quarter.

Excluding one-time items, Mastercard earned $2.65 per share for the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $2.58 per share.

Net revenue climbed 12% to $5.8 billion.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in BengaluruEditing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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