AmEx ups revenue forecast as card spending jumps to record

Jenny Surane

American Express is putting the pandemic behind it, boosting forecasts for revenue and profit after spending on its cards surged to a record. 

Revenue will climb as much as 20% this year while earnings could reach $9.25 to $9.65 a share, the company said in a statement Tuesday. AmEx has long said 2022 would be the year it reaches goals originally set two years ago, before the pandemic took hold. But the new targets far surpass even those goals, which predicted revenue growth in the range of 8% to 10% and per-share profit of $8.85 to $9.25. 

Overall spending on AmEx's network soared 29% to $368.1 billion in the final three months of last year, even as the highly contagious omicron variant disrupted holiday plans around the world and started a fresh round of lockdowns. The spending surge helped push revenue up 30% to $12.1 billion in the quarter, which was higher than analysts had predicted.

"People are ready to get out and about again," Chief Executive Officer Steve Squeri said on a conference call with analysts. "We'll see when omicron peaks and when we get the next variant, but I think society is learning how to deal with this."

Shares of the company rose 4.3% to $165.72 at 9:44 a.m. in New York, extending the gain over the past 12 months to 37%.

AmEx also said it would raise its quarterly dividend for the first time since 2019, boosting the payout 20% to 52 cents a share beginning this quarter, according to the statement.   

AmEx -- long known for its travel and dining perks -- has been revamping some of its most popular products and focusing more on wellness and lifestyle benefits as the pandemic drags on. When it overhauled its Platinum card last year, the New York-based company added statement credits for entertainment products, such as SiriusXM or Audible subscriptions, as well as $25 a month toward membership with the high-end fitness club Equinox. 

The company has vowed to spend more on marketing in recent quarters as it seeks to add new customers. Overall costs jumped 29% to $9.8 billion, topping the $9.31 billion average estimate. 

"The business imperatives and strategies we focused on pre-pandemic, the decisions we made when Covid-19 first hit to protect our customers and colleagues, and our pivot early in the recovery cycle to ramp up investments in a number of key areas all proved to be the right moves that have been good for our business," Squeri said. "We feel very good about the future."