American Express Net Income Soars, Travel Helps

American Express reported a first-quarter net income of $885 million, up 103 percent from $437 million a year ago.

Consolidated revenues net of interest expense were $6.6 billion, up 11 percent compared to $5.9 billion in the year-ago period. Consumer and small business volumes also rose in part because of strength in travel, entertainment and other discretionary categories, American Express said.

The increase was the result of the consolidation of securitized cardmember loans and related debt onto the balance sheet in the first quarter, American Express said. Revenues also reflect higher cardmember spending, offset by a smaller loan portfolio and lower yields on both the securitized and non-securitized portions of the portfolio. 

“Cardmember spending was up 16 percent, rebounding strongly from the recessionary lows of last year,” said Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and CEO. “Credit metrics also continued the improvement that began in the second half of 2009. The biggest turnarounds in spending came from corporate cardmembers and banks who issue cards on our network. Consumer and small business volumes also rose in part because of strength in travel, entertainment and other discretionary categories. Throughout the industry – and at American Express – we saw further signs that consumers are managing their post-recessionary finances more cautiously.

“Our ability to generate strong volumes comes at a time when cardmembers are paying down their outstanding debt” Chenault continued. This compares favorably to the major issuers who traditionally have had to rely on lending-oriented customers to generate billed business. At a time when so many consumers are focused on value, our relative strength also reflects the importance of pay-in-full charge cards and the appeal of our rewards, customer service and benefit programs. To help build on our momentum, we increased marketing and promotion investments back to the pre-recessionary levels. We also made other substantial investments to further strengthen our competitive position as we come out of the recession. Beyond those specific investments, we are carefully containing operating expenses not directly tied to growth initiatives. Despite the progress we made this quarter, high unemployment levels and the uncertain legislative environment remain challenges to continued growth. However, the global economy seems to be poised for continued improvement and our strong competitive position is yielding high quality comparative results.”

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