The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) today reported financial results for the 2015 fourth quarter and full year, and its financial outlook for 2016.
For the 2015 full year, the Company’s revenue increased 4% on a constant currency basis compared to the prior year period, while reported revenues declined 2% due to the impact of the stronger U.S. dollar. The strengthening of the U.S. dollar, net of hedge benefits, negatively impacted revenue by $323 million.
Operating margin, excluding the second quarter settlement charge related to our Paymap subsidiary, improved to 20.9% for the year, compared to 20.3% in 2014. The improvement was driven by cost savings initiatives benefits and foreign currency hedge gains, which more than offset the negative impact of currency translation on margins. GAAP operating margin in 2015 was 20.2%.
Earnings per share excluding the charge increased 5% to $1.67, compared to $1.59 in the prior year, while GAAP earnings per share increased 2% to $1.62. Cash flow from operating activities was approximately $1.1 billion, and the Company returned $817 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.
“I am pleased with our fourth quarter and 2015 results,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Hikmet Ersek. “We again delivered a good quarter despite global economic and geopolitical challenges, which demonstrates the resiliency of our consumers and business.”
Ersek added, “We are also advancing our long-term strategy. Westernunion.com grew full year money transfer revenues by 26% in constant currency terms and increased penetration to 34 countries, and we introduced WU® ConnectSM, which enables leading third party digital platforms to offer our money transfer services to their users. Our network now connects online and mobile channels with over 500,000 agent locations and more than 100,000 ATMs and kiosks, and provides the capability to send money to over 1 billion accounts.”
The Company also announced that its Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.16 per common share, which represents a 3% increase over the previous quarterly dividend. The dividend is payable March 31, 2016 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 17, 2016.
Fourth Quarter 2015 Results
In the fourth quarter, revenues increased 3% on a constant currency basis compared to the prior year period, while reported revenues declined 2% due to the impact of the stronger U.S. dollar. The strengthening of the U.S. dollar, net of hedge benefits, negatively impacted revenue by $74 million.
Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) revenues increased 2% constant currency, and reported revenues declined 3%. C2C transactions increased 3% in the quarter. Constant currency revenue growth was driven by strong performance from westernunion.com and solid growth from U.S. outbound. Westernunion.com C2C revenue increased 21%, or 25% constant currency, on transaction growth of 28%. Electronic channels revenue, which includes westernunion.com, account based money transfer through banks, and mobile money transfer, represented 7% of total Company revenues in the quarter.
Consumer-to-Business (C2B) revenues grew 4% in the quarter, or 9% constant currency, driven by the Argentina walk-in and the U.S. electronic bill payments businesses.
Western Union Business Solutions revenues increased 1%, or 8% on a constant currency basis. Constant currency revenue growth was driven by Europe.
Operating margin was 20.4% in the quarter, which compares to 19.6% in the fourth quarter of 2014. The operating margin improvement primarily resulted from lower expenses related to cost savings initiatives and benefits from foreign exchange hedges, partially offset by increased technology spending.
The effective tax rate was 10.4%, which compares to 6.1% in the prior year quarter.
Earnings per share of $0.42 was flat with the prior year period, as increased operating profit and fewer diluted shares outstanding were offset by a higher effective tax rate.
In the fourth quarter, the Company returned $147 million to shareholders through $69 million of share repurchases and $78 million of dividends.
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Raj Agrawal stated, “Our solid earnings performance was supported by cost management actions, which helped us overcome the negative impact of foreign exchange. Strong cash flow generation allowed us to return over $800 million to our shareholders in 2015, while we also continued to invest in our technology platforms and compliance capabilities.”
2016 Full Year Outlook
The Company expects to continue to deliver solid constant currency revenue growth. Reported results are expected to be negatively impacted by the stronger U.S. dollar relative to 2015 rates, and the outlook also includes incremental investment in technology and tight management of other expenses.
Foreign currency translation and reduced hedge benefits are anticipated to negatively impact 2016 revenues by approximately $250 million and operating profit by approximately $100 million, compared to the prior year. As a result, the Company’s 2016 earnings per share outlook of $1.58 to $1.70 includes an approximately $0.15 negative impact from currency.
Operating margins are expected to decline from 20.9% in 2015 (excluding the impact of the Paymap charge) to approximately 20% in 2016 due to the impact of foreign exchange, including reduced hedge benefits. Excluding all currency impacts, the outlook for operating margins in 2016 would be similar to 2015.
The tax rate is expected to increase from 11.8% in 2015 (excluding the impact of the charge) to a mid-teens level in 2016.
Ersek added, “We remain confident in our long-term strategies to drive new areas of growth in cross-border money movement. We believe our business will continue to generate constant currency revenue growth and solid earnings and cash flow in 2016, despite macro challenges.”
The Company expects the following outlook for 2016:
- Low to mid-single digit constant currency revenue increase
- GAAP revenue change approximately 400 basis points lower than constant currency
Operating Profit Margin
- Operating margin of approximately 20%
Earnings per Share
- EPS in a range of $1.58 to $1.70, which includes an approximately $0.15 negative impact from changes in foreign exchange rates and reduced hedge benefits
- Cash flow from operating activities of approximately $1 billion. The cash flow outlook excludes approximately $100 million of anticipated final tax payments relating to the agreement announced with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in December 2011. Some or all of these payments may occur in 2016.