AmEx’s profit view dampens strong results from record card spending

Reuters | July 21, 2023

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By Manya Saini

(Reuters) -American Express kept its annual profit forecast unchanged despite a record spending on its credit cards by consumers in the second quarter, disappointing investors and sending its shares down 5% on Friday.

Even though resilient spending on travel and entertainment encouraged company executives to remain optimistic going into the second half of the year, analysts said AmEx’s cautious forecast pointed to a potential slowdown.

“Results were strong, though spending growth is moderating from unsustainably high rates in 2022,” said Edward Jones analyst Kyle Sanders.

These worries took the shine off a record quarter in which spending surged to $426.6 billion despite rapid interest rate hikes by the U.S. central bank ushering in an end to easy money.

“Our base is changing in terms of more Millennials and Gen Z who will grow with us. And as the economy gets better, we expect the spending to pick up,” CEO Stephen Squeri said in a call with analysts.

Millennial and Gen Z were its fastest-growing customer base as their combined spending surged 21% in the U.S. from a year ago.

Still, rising borrowing costs led AmEx to raise its provisions for credit losses to $1.2 billion from $410 million a year ago as it braced for potential defaults in debt repayments.

RBC Capital Markets analysts said provisions were a modest headwind as the fundamental trends were decent in the second quarter.

“Across all demographics, all customer types, all geographies, travel and entertainment spend is just very strong,” Chief Financial Officer Jeff Campbell said.

Despite that, AmEx just reaffirmed its per-share profit forecast of $11 to $11.40 for 2023 after reporting a market-beating profit of $2.89 per share.

In defense of the cautious outlook, Campbell told Reuters that the credit-card company revises it only if something “wildly different” happens like the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Campbell will step down in August and will be succeeded by his deputy Christophe Le Caillec.

(Reporting by Manya Saini in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur)


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