First Data Profits Rise

Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2004

First Data Corp., the world's largest processor of credit-card payments, said second-quarter profit rose 32 percent, helped by an increase in revenue at Western Union, its international money-transfer agency.

Net income rose to $466 million, or 53 cents a share, from $353.8 million, or 47 cents, a year earlier, Greenwood Village, Colorado-based First Data said in a statement. Sales increased 22 percent to $2.53 billion. The rise in net income matched the estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

The company's payment services division, which includes Western Union, earned $1 billion in revenue, a 14 percent increase from the second quarter of 2003. Operating profit in the unit rose 12 percent to $341 million. First Data in February completed the $7 billion purchase of Concord EFS Inc. to get the largest automated teller-machine network in the U.S.

"The earnings were fine," said Marshall Front, who manages $1.5 billion at Front Barnett Associates LLC and recently bought 250,000 shares of First Data at an average cost of about $43.

"We like businesses that are dependent on increasing use of electronic transactions because that is the wave of the future." Western Union, which produces more than 80 percent of payment services revenue, increased its global agent network to more than 195,000 locations, adding 800 positions in Italy through the Italian Automobile Club and 1,300 in the Czech Republic through the national postal service, the company said.

First Date shares, which have risen 4.2 percent this year, fell 66 cents to $42.84 at 12:52 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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