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MasterCard's 1Q profit climbs 14 per cent on cardholder spending; Russia payments law a worry

FILE - This Sept. 21, 2011, file photo. shows a MasterCard sign on a revolving door in New York. Mastercard Inc. reports quarterly earnings on Thursday, May 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

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FILE - This Sept. 21, 2011, file photo. shows a MasterCard sign on a revolving door in New York. Mastercard Inc. reports quarterly earnings on Thursday, May 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

MasterCard's net income climbed 14 per cent in the first quarter, as increased spending by cardholders worldwide helped boost revenue.

The results beat Wall Street estimates, sending the Purchase, New York-company's shares higher in afternoon trading Thursday.

The company also flagged that it sees potentially serious complications from a proposed payments law that Russia is considering.

Lawmakers in Russia are eyeing enacting changes to the structure of the domestic payments market in response to the impact of sanctions by the West amid rising tensions in the Ukraine.

Although Russia accounts for roughly 2 per cent of MasterCard's revenue, the company is worried about the impact a new payments market law would have on MasterCard's business.

"There are provisions there that I believe would create serious complications for the way that we can operate in that market," MasterCard President and CEO Ajay Banga said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Banga noted that the situation is fluid, which makes it difficult to gauge the potential impact of any new payments laws beyond this year.

"Overall, we expect a small impact from this current Russian situation on our results for 2014," Banga said.

Despite its concerns, the company did not update its 2014 earnings guidance.

MasterCard is the world's second-largest processor of debit and credit card payments. Like its bigger rival, Visa Inc., it benefits from heightened consumer spending.

An unusually bitter winter sent factories, hiring and consumer spending into hibernation earlier this year, but spending rebounded last month. U.S. consumer spending jumped 0.9 per cent in March, the largest monthly gain since April 2009, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The department also raised its estimate of the spending increase in February to 0.5 per cent from 0.3 per cent.

Worldwide purchase volume during the January-March quarter vaulted 12.7 per cent to $759 billion versus a year earlier. Spending on purchases rose nearly 9 per cent in the U.S. to $268 billion.

All told, MasterCard handled 9.8 billion transactions during the quarter, a 14 per cent increase over the same period last year.

The growth in purchase transactions helped boost MasterCard's revenue in the quarter by 14 per cent to $2.18 billion, up from $1.91 billion a year earlier. But some of that revenue was partly offset by a rise in rebates and incentives that the company offered.

MasterCard said net income rose to $870 million, or 73 cents per share, in the three months ending March 31, the company said Thursday. That compares with net income of $766 million, or 62 cents per share, in the same three months of last year.

Analysts, on average, expected earnings of 72 cents per share on $2.14 billion in revenue in the latest quarter, according to the data provider FactSet.

Last month, rival Visa's earnings jumped 26 per cent as the company turned in strong growth in payments volume.

MasterCard shares added 77 cents, or 1 per cent, to $74.32 in afternoon trading. The stock is down 10.1 per cent this year.

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AP Business Writer Matt Craft in New York contributed to this report.

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