The fallout from Russia's encroachment into Ukraine has reached MasterCard's headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., where the card networks top executives expressed concern about lost business and Russia's moves to localize its payments infrastructure in response to sanctions from the West.
"Even though Russia's only 2% of our net revenue, the sanctions have had a significant impact on the Russian market," said Ajay Banga, MasterCard's CEO, during a May 1 conference call to discuss MasterCard's first quarter 2014 earnings. MasterCard reported net income of $870 million, or $0.73 per share, for the first quarter, an increase of 14% from $766 million, or $0.62, a year earlier. The average estimate of 31 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was $0.72 per share.
Russia is openly discussing its plans to form a national payment network, as well as require foreign companies process payments inside Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called out MasterCard and Visa, contending these companies would lose market share in Russia for complying with U.S. sanctions that prohibit them from handling payments for certain companies. Executives at Visa, which announced its second-quarter earnings last week, have also expressed concern that the Russian crisis may complicate future performance.
"Russia is all very serious. I don't think this is sabre-rattling any longer," Banga said.
The Russian legislature has passed a bill that would require payment companies to operate "on Russian soil," though it is still uncertain what that means, Banga says, noting that there's no clarity on whether that Russian billwhich Putin has not yet signed into lawcovers data transfer, authorization, clearing, settlement or some combination. MasterCard has an operating center in Russia, Banga said.
MasterCard is not expecting a substantial impact on its financial performance because of the Russian crisis in the near termit did not issue a formal revision of future performance expectationsthough there could be long-term complications if the crisis accelerates or lingers.
"It's unclear today how developments will impact us over the next two to three years," said Martina Hund-Mejean, MasterCard's chief financial offer.
The lack of political clarity is joined by a general mixed economic outlook for Russia, Banga said.
Beyond Russia, MasterCard presented a generally positive outlook in other markets, noting it has signed recent deals with issuers in the Baltics, the Nordic region, Sweden and East Africa. In the U.S., MasterCard's performance should benefit from its recent deal with Walmart to process store branded credit cards and a deal with Target to guide that retailer's migration to EMV-chip cards, Banga said.
Banga would not say if the Target deal would lead to other retailers choosing MasterCard for their EMV migration. "I'm just trying to keep my head down and keep doing deals," he said.
MasterCard also plans to expand its store-branded card relationship with Walmart to include stores in Mexico and Chile, Banga said.