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Visa: A Gold-Medal Opportunity
Posted by: Charles Sizemore (IP Logged)
Date: August 8, 2012 08:45AM

As I write this article, China has a slight lead on the United States in Olympic gold, 34-30, but anything can happen over the next week.

But whichever country leaves London with the bigger stash of medals, Visa (V) will be accepted in either of them.

In fact, Visa is accepted in virtually every country represented in the 2012 Summer Games.

Visa has a long history with the Olympics. The company is a major sponsor this year, just as it has been for 26 years now. It makes sense; a company with one of the most global brands in history making itself seen as a patron of the ultimate global sporting event.

It is Visa’s global reach that makes it one of the most attractive growth stocks for the next decade. As I noted in a recent article, Visa benefits from two overlapping macro trends.

First, irrespective of what happens in the U.S. economy or how the eurozone crisis unfolds, incomes are rising in emerging markets. Visa is projected to get more than half of its revenues from outside the United States by 2015, and most of this will come from emerging-market card-swiping.

The second theme is the continued growth of electronic payments at the expense of cash and checks; call it the “death of cash.” This is a trend that still is playing out in the United States, where roughly 40% of all transactions still are done with cash or check, but the transformation is more obvious in emerging markets. When I visit my wife’s family in South America, we still have to remember to carry cash. I don’t think this will be true in another five years.

Card acceptance is a virtuous cycle; the more consumers request to pay with plastic, the more retailers feel obligated to oblige. At the same time, the more retailers who accept plastic, the more convenient it becomes for consumers to leave their cash at home.

Plus, it’s safer to pay with plastic. The occasional story of a data breach, cardholders have very little risk of theft, as they are not liable for fraudulent purchases. Alas, there is no one to reimburse you if a thief steals a roll of cash.

And given that you are reading this article online, we should not forget the role that Internet commerce plays. Though still small when compared to the broader brick-and-mortar retail economy, e-commerce is becoming a larger piece of the pie every year. Traditional credit and debit card companies benefit from this, as do relatively new upstarts like eBay’s (EBAY) PayPal.

So, there you have it — more shopping by emerging-market consumers and a higher percentage of existing shopping switching to plastic. An investment thesis in fewer than 20 words.

Right now, Visa and rival MasterCard (MA) are a little pricey at 18 and 16 times forward earnings, respectively. So you might want to wait for a dip before buying. But if I had to choose one stock to hold for the next 10 years, Visa would be near the top of my list — even at current prices.



Stocks Discussed: V, EBAY, MA,
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