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AmEx sees consumer travel recovery after lower spending hits profit

Niket Nishant
·2-min read
File photo of credit cards of American Express in this illustration picture

By Niket Nishant

(Reuters) - American Express Co said on Tuesday it expects an uptick in holiday travel this summer, but not business travel, as it seeks to recover from a year which dented airline traffic and hotel bookings, knocking 15% off its bottom line.

The New York-based company still beat Wall Street estimates for profit as it lowered credit loss reserves and benefited from higher online spending by consumers stuck at home.

"...As we get into this summer season, this June, July, August and September, you will see a rush for people to travel, especially air travel," CEO Stephen Squeri said on a post-earnings conference call.

AmEx forecast a 9% to 10% jump in overall 2021 revenue, with travel and expenditure (T&E) spending by consumers recovering to around 70% of fourth-quarter 2019 levels by the final quarter of 2021. That indicates full-year revenue of $39.7 billion on the upper end of the range, marginally below consensus estimates of $39.92 billion.

The bullish outlook for travel, however, failed to lift shares, which fell 3% in late morning trade after AmEx's total revenue, net of interest expense, dropped 17.1% to $36.09 billion.

A rebound in corporate travel will take longer, AmEx warned, with companies, particularly large ones, limiting their T&E spending for some time. T&E spending on AmEx's cards declined 65% in the final quarter of 2020.

The company does not expect a full-blown recovery before 2022, but is focused on achieving the EPS expectations it had for 2020 in 2022, Squeri said.

AmEx also lowered some reserves it had set aside for credit losses and posted a gain of $111 million from consolidated provisions, compared with credit loss provisions of $1.02 billion last year.

Net income fell to $1.44 billion, or $1.76 per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with estimates for a profit of $1.31 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Writing by Noor Zainab Hussain, Editing by Devika Syamnath)