Visa's still in the hot seat for its European payments outage

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The outage that halted a portion of Visa payments in Europe was almost two months ago, but the card brand is still explaining what happened and attempting to isolate the incident.

During Wednesday's earnings conference call, CEO Alfred Kelly reiterated how important it is that Visa successfully complete all transactions, then pointed out the limited scale of the incident this summer and objected to how it was characterized.

"We at Visa hold ourselves to a very high standard and any impact on processing for any period is unacceptable," Kelly said during the conference call. "To clarify a few points: It was not an outage. About 95% of unique transactions attempted over that 10 hour period were completed successfully."
The incident, on June 1, caused 2.4 million transactions to fail out of 27.6 million, or about 9%, according to a letter Visa issued later in June. While consumers complained at the time, most of the institutional criticism of Visa was not based on the scope and scale of the outage, but on Visa's immediate response, which provided few details on what happened.

Following pressure from members of the U.K. Parliament, Visa provided a more thorough explanation after a couple of weeks, including information on a migration of European technology to Visa's global system that has more redundancies and would likely prevent a similar incident.

"The [glitch] was on a legacy platform and was unrelated to the migration," Kelly said. "The global platform was not affected."

Since Visa's incident, other payment companies have suffered outages, including Mastercard and Lloyds Banking Group. These other incidents have taken some of the heat away from Visa, but have drawn added attention to large-scale processing challenges as the percentage of e-commerce, real-time processing and international payments increases.

Visa hopes the Visa Europe processing migration project will put questions about real-time processing and aside. Visa is nearing the end of the technology portion of the merger, with clearing and settlement migration fully complete, and the authorization migration about 50% complete, Kelly said. The technology conversion of Visa Europe is on pace to be finished by the end of this year, Kelly said.

Visa will then focus on competing with local card networks and pruning cash payments from countries that have not adopted electronic payments. About 60% of payments in Spain, Italy and Poland are still cash-based, Kelly said, adding there are nine other markets with domestic card schemes where Visa believes it has a digital advantage.

Visa has invested $100 million to collaborate with fintechs in the region, on top of earlier investments in European payment companies such as Klarna.

"[Also] much of the volume for Visa Europe was debit centric and did not focus much on credit," Kelly said.

For the quarter ending June 30, Visa reported earnings per share of $1, up from $0.86 in the prior year's quarter. Net income was $2.3 billion, up from $2.1 billion the prior year. Visa reported revenue of $5.2 billion in the quarter compared to $4.6 billion in the second quarter of 2017.

Adjusted earnings were $1.20 per share, up from $0.86 last year and ahead of FactSet analysts' expectations of adjusted earnings per share of $1.09. Total spending on Visa's network was $2.1 trillion, up 11% from just below $1.9 trillion the prior year and ahead of Bloomberg analysts' estimates of $2.09 trillion. The card network reaffirmed its full year outlook of low double digital revenue growth. Total processed transactions were about $32 billion for the quarter.

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Cards Earnings Risk Fintech Alfred F. Kelly Jr. Visa