Synchrony Financial's CEO on Wednesday didn't rule out working with former partner Walmart again, after the retail giant sued card issuer rival Capital One.
Walmart filed a lawsuit against its card partner Capital One on April 7, seeking to end its relationship with the issuer over Capital One’s failure to meet certain terms of their contract. Walmart alleges Capital One was slow to issue replacement cards and post transactions and payments to customer accounts.
Stamford, Connecticut-based Synchrony is familiar with Walmart’s litigiousness, as the two were partners for almost two decades when the retailer sued Synchrony.
Before striking up a partnership with Capital One in 2018, Walmart used Synchrony as its credit card issuer for 19 years, The Wall Street Journal reported. The retailer filed suit against Synchrony that year, alleging Synchrony’s underwriting standards caused Walmart financial harm, that publication reported. Walmart later dropped the lawsuit.
Despite that history, Synchrony CEO Brian Doubles on Wednesday expressed a willingness to consider working with the retail behemoth again, without specifically naming it, during a first-quarter earnings call.
After an analyst on the call asked about Synchrony’s appetite for that business, Doubles said he didn’t want to speculate on Walmart’s situation, but added the private label card issuer is generally “always in the market for large portfolio acquisitions.”
Doubles said that he had "nothing to share specifically on that (Walmart) situation," without naming the retailer. "I just don't want to speculate there, we're not party to that." Then, Doubles noted Synchrony still works with Walmart-owned retail warehouse chain Sam’s Club. “We've got a great relationship with Sam's Club, going back 25-plus years – great alignment, great engagement and momentum on that program,” Doubles said.
Doubles then talked about what Synchrony looks for in a solid partnership.
“You’ve got to have really good alignment, you’ve got to have the right balance of risk and returns,” Doubles said of such an issuing relationship. “I think that's important, particularly in an environment like this, where you're kind of heading into a period of uncertainty. So, we’ll continue to stay very disciplined around risk and returns.”
Walmart didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Doubles’s comments suggest Synchrony isn’t partaking in a bid process for the portfolio, although “that could be because it’s too early,” Oppenheimer & Co. Analyst Dominick Gabriele said in an email Wednesday.
That said, the two couldn’t agree on price last time, and “most likely that hasn’t changed,” Gabriele said. “Probably pretty slim (Synchrony) and Walmart can find equal ground.”
Synchrony reported quarterly net earnings dropped 36%, to $601 million, according to the company’s first quarter earnings release. Net interest income, fueled by higher interest and fees on card loans, rose 7%, to $4.1 billion in the quarter, the company said.
Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that Doubles didn't reference Walmart by name, and that he was the only executive in the exchange with the analyst.