MoneyGram International Inc. is a leading global payment services company and S&P MidCap company. The company's major products and services include global money transfers money orders and payment processing solutions for financial institutions and retail customers. MoneyGram International Inc. has a market cap of $132.9 million; its shares were traded at around $1.61 with a P/E ratio of 3.8 and P/S ratio of 0.1. Highlight of Business Operations:Fee and other revenue consists of fees on money transfer (including bill payment), money orders and official check transactions. For the first quarter of 2009, fee and other revenue increased by $5.3 million, or 2 percent, from 2008, driven by continued growth in money transfer (including bill payment) transaction volume. Money transfer fee and other revenue increased 2 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to 2008, while money transfer transaction volume increased 4 percent. Transaction growth resulted in incremental fee and other revenue of $13.0 million, while the decline in the Euro exchange rate, net of hedging activities, decreased fee and other revenue by $6.6 million. Lower average face value per transaction and corridor mix decreased our revenue by $0.9 million. See Table 6 Global Funds Transfer Segment for further information regarding money transfer revenue and transaction volume. In the first quarter of 2009, the rate of growth in money transfer (including bill payment) volume slowed compared to 2008, reflecting slowing economic conditions and a growing volume base.
Fee commissions consist primarily of fees paid to our third-party agents for the money transfer service. We generally do not pay fee commissions on our money order products. During the first quarter of 2009, fee commissions expense increased $1.3 million, or 1 percent, over 2008. Money transfer transaction volume growth resulted in incremental commissions expense of $5.3 million, offset by a $4.5 million benefit from the lower Euro exchange rate. Commissions expense also increased $0.5 million from the amortization of signing bonuses paid to agents in 2008. Average commission rates paid to our agents was flat for the first quarter of 2009 compared to 2008 as the benefit from changes in corridor mix was offset by higher Walmart commission rates resulting from the extended contract signed late in the first quarter of 2008.
During the first quarter of 2008, we completed the realignment of our investment portfolio, resulting in the sale of securities with a fair value of $3.2 billion (after other-than-temporary impairment charges) at December 31, 2007 for proceeds of $2.9 billion and a net realized loss of $256.3 million. This net realized loss was the result of further deterioration in the markets during the first quarter of 2008 and the short timeframe over which securities were sold. Proceeds from the sales were reinvested in cash and cash equivalents. We recognized an other-than-temporary impairment charge of $45.3 million on our available-for-sale securities and unrealized losses of $5.7 million on our trading investments during the first quarter of 2008 as the result of further deterioration in the market and accumulation of ratings downgrades.
Compensation and benefits Compensation and benefits includes salaries and benefits, management incentive programs and other employee related costs. Compensation and benefits decreased $0.7 million, or 1 percent, in the first quarter of 2009 compared to 2008, primarily from lower incentive compensation. Incentive compensation decreased $4.5 million due to accruing annual incentives at a lower tier than in 2008, lower stock-based compensation expense from forfeitures and no new issuances in 2008 and the decision to suspend our discretionary profit sharing contribution for 2009. Substantially offsetting these expense reductions is $3.5 million of executive severance and related costs recorded during the first quarter of 2009 related to the departure of our former chief financial officer and an agreement with another executive, as well as a $0.6 million increase in benefit plan expenses. The decline in the Euro exchange rate, which is reflected in each of the amounts discussed above, decreased compensation and benefits by approximately $1.3 million compared to 2008.
Transaction and operations support Transaction and operations support expenses include marketing costs, professional fees and other outside service costs, telecommunications and forms expense related to our products. Transaction and operations support costs decreased $7.5 million, or 15 percent, in the first quarter of 2009 compared to 2008, primarily from $7.7 million of professional fees incurred in 2008 in connection with the recapitalization and a $4.3 million decrease in marketing costs in 2009 due to controlled spending and timing of marketing initiatives. Partially offsetting these cost savings is a negative $3.1 million impact from foreign exchange rate movements on our foreign denominated assets and liabilities, net of hedging activities, as well as $0.9 million of professional fees incurred in connection with our implementation of the European Union Payment Services Directive. The decline in the Euro exchange rate, which is reflected in each of the amounts discussed above, decreased transaction and operations support by approximately $1.0 million compared to 2008.
Income taxes In the first quarter of 2009, we had $0.6 million of tax expense on pre-tax income of $12.4 million, resulting in an effective income tax rate of 4.54 percent. The effective income tax rate in the first quarter of 2009 reflects benefits recognized on tax positions with respect to part of the net securities losses from 2008 and 2007. We continue to evaluate additional available tax positions related to the net securities losses. In the first quarter of 2008, we had $17.7 million of tax expense on a pre-tax loss of $343.1 million, resulting in a negative effective income tax rate of 5.17 percent. The effective income tax rate in the first quarter of 2008 reflects a deferred tax asset valuation allowance of $16.1 million recorded in the first quarter of 2008 relating to net securities losses on securities. Due to the amount and characterization of losses at March 31, 2008, we determined that it was not more likely than not that the deferred tax assets related to the losses would be realized as of March 31, 2008.
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