Magazine article American Banker

Further Corrosion and Higher Chargeoff Target at Discover

Magazine article American Banker

Further Corrosion and Higher Chargeoff Target at Discover

Article excerpt

Discover Financial Services' credit picture continued to deteriorate in its second fiscal quarter, which ended May 31.

The Riverwoods, Ill., company benefited once again from lower funding costs, though it said Thursday that credit is likely to be the more important factor in the future, because it has already gotten the benefits of recent rate cuts.

The company also touted growth in its third-party payment processing business, whose contribution to pretax earnings more than doubled from a year earlier, to 5.2% of Discover's total. The business stands to get a further boost from the deal to buy the Diners Club International network, which it expects to close next month and would give Discover a global reach.

Including loans other than card receivables, which make up about 1.5% of the $47.8 billion in managed receivables, Discover's chargeoff rate jumped 66 basis points from the first quarter and 102 basis points from a year earlier, to 4.99%.

In January it raised its projection for chargeoffs for the full fiscal year to a range of 4.75% to 5%, from a previous range of 4.25% to 4.75%. On Thursday, the projection rose again, to "somewhat above 5%."

Since the beginning of this year "gas prices have gone higher than we had anticipated," David W. Nelms, the company's chief executive, said on a conference call. "Unemployment just hit 5.5%, which was probably a faster increase than we might have anticipated," and housing prices slipped more quickly than Discover expected. "Nonetheless, I would not call our characterization" regarding a worsening credit outlook "a hugely significant move."

On Wednesday, American Express Co. warned, "So far this month we have seen credit indicators deteriorate beyond our expectations."

Mr. Nelms said, "We have not seen anything particular this month relative to the last several months. …

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