Visa picks a tough time for $23 bln Europe deal

November 2, 2015

The U.S. payments network is using an earnout, buybacks and other maneuvers to soften the blow of paying 61 times pre-tax earnings for its overseas cousin. It’s a crafty solution but the integration will take a while and distract management just as industry competition heats up.

Memo to Netflix: Card swipe may not connect

October 16, 2015

Plastic purveyors are hitting back after the video-streaming site blamed new chip-enabled credit cards for subpar Q3 subscriber growth. Netflix’s reason sounds weak. More worrying, companies using spurious-sounding ways to rationalize problems sometimes have bigger concerns.

American Express may face its Microsoft moment

September 4, 2015

The $75 bln credit-card firm led by Ken Chenault is ValueAct’s latest target. It’s not clear how breaking up or returning capital will remedy Amex’s subpar growth and lagging stock. Going after the long-serving boss, ValueAct’s successful strategy at the software giant, might.

China worries start now for Visa and MasterCard

July 27, 2015

The People’s Republic will open its $7 trln bank card payment market to outsiders. Yet Visa and MasterCard, whose shares have risen since the decision, face an entrenched incumbent and online rivals like Alibaba. The hype from getting market access looks premature.

It’s a good time for Visa to charge up in Europe

May 14, 2015

The U.S. payments company may be in talks to buy former subsidiary Visa Europe for up to $20 bln. A deal now, though complex to arrange, would bring global dominance and valuable cost savings. An existing put option also means acting now might well avoid a higher price later.

Square swipes a hollow-looking $6 bln valuation

August 29, 2014

That’s what the payments company may be worth after its latest fundraising. It’s big, but a deflated figure, considering Square’s former hype, the small amount raised, and tech rivals’ ease securing higher valuations. Blame increasing competition for Square’s comparative malaise.

Capital One case heralds end of sneaky fees

July 19, 2012

The U.S. credit card issuer is paying $210 mln to settle charges of duping customers. The first big enforcement action by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicates the kind of innovation in its crosshairs. Lenders will have to be creative without being deceptive.

U.S. student loan trouble discredits their value

November 28, 2012

If pricey education provided the hoped-for labor market edge, then 11 percent of student loan balances shouldn’t be overdue. The proportion of delinquent education debt has surpassed even late credit card balances. Maybe students need better vetting.

JPMorgan shows juice is in reserves, not earnings

July 15, 2010

Don't count on a rebound in earnings to boost U.S. bank stocks. That's the message to glean from JPMorgan's second-quarter results. Granted, the bank's performance was hardly disastrous, especially considering the slowdown across the industry in trading in May and June. But almost a third of the bank's profit came from a $1.5 billion gain on releasing loan-loss reserves.