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Visa card use up but 2Q profit slips nearly 2 pct
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Visa Inc. said Wednesday that its net income slipped nearly 2 percent in the first three months of this year from the year before, when the company benefited from an adjustment to its income tax provision.

Even so, the payments processing company's latest results trumped Wall Street's estimates. It also raised its fiscal 2013 earnings-growth forecast from high-teens to around 20 percent, citing a more certain revenue outlook and earlier-than-planned share buybacks.

Investors responded favorably, lifting Visa's shares 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Visa doesn't issue cards. It makes money from processing charge card transactions, so it benefits from heightened consumer spending.

Steady job growth, a sustained stock market rally and rising home values have helped boost consumers' confidence this year, even though Americans' paychecks got smaller due to an increase in Social Security payroll taxes that went into effect in January.

Sales at U.S. retailers — a key indicator of consumer spending — declined a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in March. That followed a 1 percent gain in February and a 0.1 percent decline in January.

Still, more consumers turned to Visa-branded debit and credit cards in the quarter.

The company, based in Forest City, Calif., said Americans rang up $255 billion using Visa-branded credit cards, an increase of 9 percent from a year earlier. But debit card use was essentially flat.

Transactions processed over Visa's network totaled $13.9 billion, an increase of 6 percent from a year earlier. The U.S. accounted for a 3 percent gain, while international transactions climbed 21 percent.

"Economic uncertainty does remain, but our business model continues to prove itself through all environments, and growth rates," Visa CEO Charlie Scharf said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Scharf noted that the growth trend continued through April.

The growth in spending by cardholders echoed the results reported earlier in the day by rival MasterCard Inc.

To distance itself from MasterCard, Visa has been taking steps to make its payment-processing business more accessible to mobile device users, who increasingly shop online on tablets and smartphones, rather than PCs.

In February, the company reached a deal with mobile commerce provider ROAM aimed at enabling merchants to accept electronic payments via mobile devices. Visa also launched a mobile money platform meant to streamline how financial institutions can offer financial services to consumers via mobile devices.

Also during the quarter, Visa disclosed it had agreed to partner with JPMorgan Chase & Co. in a deal that calls for Chase to launch a payments processing platform powered by Visa. Through that platform, Chase will offer discounts to its cardholders when they go to ring up a purchase from merchants who have signed up to join the Chase Merchant Network.

Scharf noted that the companies finalized the deal last month, and said it was a 10-year renewable partnership.

For the fiscal second-quarter, Visa reported net income of $1.27 billion, or $1.92 per share. That compares with net income of $1.29 billion, or $1.91 per share, in the same period last year.

The prior-year results included a one-time non-cash adjustment of $208 million related to the company's income tax provision.

Revenue in the latest quarter rose nearly 15 percent to $2.96 billion from $2.58 billion a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, forecast earnings of $1.81 per share, on revenue of $2.85 billion, according to FactSet.

Visa noted that its service revenue increased 10 percent to $1.4 billion, while data processing revenue climbed 25 percent to $1.2 billion.

International transaction revenues grew 13 percent to $831 million.

Visa's client incentives declined to $567 million.

Shares ended regular trading down $2.44 at $166.02. The stock added $3.48 to $169.50 in after-market trading.