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Visa profit beats as card payments accelerate

(Reuters) - Visa Inc's quarterly profit beat analysts' estimates for the ninth consecutive quarter as credit, debit and transactions grew at the world's largest payments network.

Visa, along with its closest rival MasterCard Inc , have been working to spread card and online payments in parts of the world dominated by cash transactions.

Visa's purchase volumes grew 9 percent to $1.1 trillion in the first quarter, the fastest rate of growth in nine months. Billable transactions on the company's Cybersource online payments network jumped 28 percent, the quickest pace in at least five quarters.

Visa has also been expanding in emerging markets. The company will provide payment services under a biometric identification program being implemented by the Indian government.

The Foster City, California-based company, which is boosting its electronic payment operations and rolling out its digital wallet service, V.me, said it would continue to invest in new services.

"The work on mobile here continues, both organically and with the acquisition of Fundamo. It's a critical access point to our network and continued investment in that is absolutely critical for us," Chief Executive Charlie Scharf said on a post-earnings conference call.

Visa acquired South Africa-based Fundamo, a mobile payments company with a presence in emerging markets, for about $100 million in 2011.

Scharf, a former head of JPMorgan Chase & Co's retail financial services division, took over as chief executive of Visa in November.

PROFIT BEATS

Visa's profit rose 30 percent in the first quarter, boosted by payment volumes and a tax benefit.

The company's profit rose to $1.3 billion, or $1.93 per Class A share, from $1.0 billion, or $1.49 per Class A share, a year earlier.

Visa reported an adjusted profit of $1.82 per share, topping analysts' average estimate of $1.79 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total operating revenue rose 12 percent to $2.80 billion.

MasterCard reported better-than-expected results last week on strong growth in emerging markets. It also doubled its quarterly cash dividend on Tuesday and said it would buy back up to $2 billion of its Class A shares.

Visa said it expected percentage growth in full-year 2013 net revenue to be in the low double-digits and adjusted Class A earnings per share growth in the high-teens.

The company forecasts an annual operating margin of about 60 percent.

Shares of the company, which has a market valuation of more than $125 billion, closed at $160.82 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

(Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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