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MasterCard's 4th quarter profit climbs 3 per cent, but adjusted results miss expectations

FILE - In this Thursday, April 25, 2013, file photo, MasterCard credit cards are displayed for a photographer in Montpelier, Vt. MasterCard Inc. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

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FILE - In this Thursday, April 25, 2013, file photo, MasterCard credit cards are displayed for a photographer in Montpelier, Vt. MasterCard Inc. reports quarterly financial results before the market opens on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

PURCHASE, N.Y. - MasterCard Inc.'s fourth-quarter earnings climbed 3 per cent as rising payment volume countered a jump in expenses, but the results fell short of financial analysts' expectations.

That sent shares in the Purchase, N.Y., payment networks company down 5 per cent in morning trading Friday.

MasterCard said net income grew to $623 million, or 52 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That compares with $605 million, or 49 cents per share, a year earlier.

Earnings in the most recent quarter totalled 57 cents per share, not counting a litigation-related charge.

Revenue climbed 12 per cent to $2.13 billion, as consumers hit stores for holiday shopping.

Analysts anticipated adjusted earnings of 60 cents per share on $2.14 billion in revenue.

MasterCard said its revenue climbed partly because of a 13 per cent increase in processed transactions to 10.4 billion and a 14 per cent increase in gross dollar volume.

But that was partly offset by an increase in rebates and incentives that the company offered in conjunction with renewed deals signed during the quarter.

Operating expenses, which included a $95 million provision for a litigation settlement, rose 21 per cent to $1.21 billion.

Analysts were not anticipating the increase in operating expenses and rebates and incentives, which led to the disparity in the consensus earnings forecast and MasterCard's results.

Still, the growth in rebates and incentives is likely a positive for MasterCard's longer-term growth prospects, Barclays analyst Darrin Peller wrote in a research note.

MasterCard does business all over the world, and its results are a window into how people are spending at all different income levels.

U.S. consumer spending grew during the October-December quarter at the fastest pace in three years.

The Commerce Department Friday that consumer spending rose a solid 0.4 per cent in December after rising 0.6 per cent in November, the best gain in five months.

MasterCard rival Visa Inc., along with card issuers American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services, reported higher card spending during the holiday season.

Shares in MasterCard slid $3.97, or 5 per cent, to $75.79 in morning trading. The stock is down more than 9 per cent so far this year.

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