American Express..

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Despite its growing revenue, American Express underperformed as compared with the industry average growth of 7.7%. While net sales increased by 5%, net income declined 47% and earnings per share declined by 44.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past year. During the past fiscal year, the company reported lower earnings of $3.87 per share versus $4.08 in the prior year. These results were influenced mostly by one-time expenses including a $400 million restructuring charge related to the changes in the travel services division, a $342 million expense due to enhancements to the membership rewards estimation process and a $153 million expense related to customer reimbursements for prior years. These charges will help operations going forward. The debt-to-equity ratio for American Express is very high at about three times equity. Industry competitors MasterCard and Visa both have debt-to-equity ratios of zero and growing cash balances. The company's current return on equity has also slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior. These factors imply a minor weakness in the organization. When compared to other companies in the industry and the overall market, the company’s return on equity exceeds that of the industry average and significantly exceeds that of the S&P 500. A double-digit profit margin of 17.12 percent is also impressive. Compared to a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a 17% higher level, regardless of the company’s weak earnings results. Earnings are expected to increase 23% in 2013. New legislation put in place to protect consumers from the worst practices of the credit card industry is not expected to hamper future profitability. American Express continues to be the best credit card for consumer satisfaction for the sixth straight year, according to the 2012 report released by J.D. Power and Associates.
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