Profit For Western Union Raised By First Data

Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2004

DENVER (AP) -- First Data Corp. reported a 14 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday, citing strong growth of its Western Union money-transfer network.

The electronic financial transaction company said Tuesday it earned $401.6 million, or 55 cents a share, in the October-December period, up from $352.5 million, or 46 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $2.24 billion from $2.02 billion in the fourth quarter of 2002.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected profits of 54 cents per share.

First Data, based in Denver, is merging with Memphis, Tenn.-based Concord EFS Inc. in a deal the Justice Department had sued to block over concerns it would reduce competition in the financial transaction industry.

The companies owned two major personal identification number networks--STAR and NYCE--that allow consumers to use debit cards for purchases. In December, First Data agreed to sell off NYCE Corp., the nation's third-largest PIN network, to settle the Justice Department's concerns.

First Data CEO Charlie Fote said he expected the Concord merger to lead to 20 percent revenue growth in 2004 and earnings per share in the range of $2 to $2.18. He also said he expected cash outlays of $150 million in 2004 related to restructuring from the merger.

First Data's full year earnings for 2003 were $1.41 billion, or $1.88 per share, versus $1.24 billion, or $1.61 per share, a year earlier.

Full year revenue was $8.4 billion, up from $7.5 billion in 2002.

Western Union saw revenues grow 12 percent, excluding effects of the strong euro, in 2003 and also had 21 percent more locations than the year before.

First Data shares were down 68 cents to close at $38.37 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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