The Western Union Company (WU), Moneygram International Inc (MGI), Xoom Corp (XOOM): This Global Money Transfer Leader Is Really a Buy

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Western UnionThe world is moving to cashless transactions. That is true, but only for the developed economies. A majority of the population, especially in the emerging economies, still uses cash transactions. Because of that simple reason, I have been quite bullish about The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU). Since November 2012, Western Union’s share price has kept going up, from nearly $12 per share to $16 per share, marking a gain of more than 33%.

Famous investors, including Joel Greenblatt, Brian Rogers, and Chuck Royce have accumulated The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU) for their portfolios. Let’s take a closer look to determine whether or not this company is a sweet buy right now.

Western Union – the global leader in global money transfer

The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU) is considered a global leader in money movement and payment services, with the reputation of “speed, reliability, trust and convenience”, having more than 437,000 agent locations in more than 200 countries. The company operates in three main business segments: Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C), Consumer-to-Business (C2B), and Business Solutions.

Most of its revenue, $4.58 billion, or 81% of the total revenue, was generated from the C2C segment. C2B ranked second with only $604 million in 2012 revenue, while the Business Solutions segment contributed $367.4 million in revenue. The C2C segment was also the largest income contributor with nearly $1.27 billion in operating income. Interestingly, this segment is mainly for under-banked people to transfer money back home.

In the first quarter of 2013, its revenue decreased 5% to $1.32 billion. Its transaction fees also experienced a decline of 6% to only $978 million. The decrease in C2C revenue was due to compliance-related charges and pricing investments. C2C transactions rose 2%, thanks to pricing investments in key corridors. Net income came in at $212 million, or $0.37 per share, a bit lower than the net income of $247.3 million, or $0.40 per share in the first quarter last year.

Interestingly, despite the depressing bottom line, its EPS still beat analysts’ estimates of $0.33 per share. The company expects its full year 2013 EPS to be in the range of $1.33 to $1.43 a share. At $16 per share, The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU) is worth $8.95 billion on the market. The market values Western Union at around 6.86 times EV/EBITDA and 1.61 times sales. Compared to its peers Moneygram International Inc (NASDAQ:MGI) and Xoom Corp (NASDAQ:XOOM), The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU) doesn’t seem to have an expensive valuation.

MoneyGram – similar valuation but much lower market share

Moneygram International Inc (NASDAQ:MGI) is the second largest player in the global money transfer and payment service industry with around 310,000 agent locations in 197 countries. Its Money Transfer segment is the biggest revenue contributor, accounting for 85.7% of its total revenue in 2012. Recently, Moneygram International Inc (NASDAQ:MGI) reported sluggish first-quarter earnings results. In Q1 2013, its revenue increased 7% to $340.5 million, lower than analysts’ expectation of $342.6 million. However, Moneygram International Inc (NASDAQ:MGI) produced a net loss of $12.6 million compared to a profit of $10.3 million in the first quarter last year. The net loss in Q1 2013 was due to $45.3 million in debt extinguishment costs.

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