Western Union Co. said Tuesday that first-quarter profits rose 8% from a year earlier, $223.9 million, or 32 cents a share, on an increase in consumer transfers and savings generated by closing some call centers and lowering commissions.

Shares of the Englewood, Colo., company rose by the most in almost six months after it released its first-quarter results.

Revenue declined 5%, to $1.2 billion, and expenses declined 10%, to $860.3 million.

Western Union has been closing call centers in the United States, cutting jobs and reducing commissions.

The company, which generates more than half of its revenue outside the United States, is expanding into Brazil, Panama and several European countries, including Spain, Ireland and Denmark, to spur growth.

"The economic slowdown, though certainly an issue for us, hasn't slowed our momentum as it relates to organizing our business and investing for tomorrow," Christina Gold, the remittance company's chief executive, said in a conference call Tuesday with analysts.

The average estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News had predicted that Western Union would post earnings of 27 cents a share.

In February, Western Union said the global transfer market would grow more slowly this year than it has in the past.

On Tuesday it reaffirmed its outlook for the year and said it expects revenue to decline 5% to 8%. The company forecast earnings of between $1.18 and $1.28 a share for the full year.

Western Union has also been taking steps to expand in the banking market. On Monday it announced that Fidelity National Information Services Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., would offer its 8,500 U.S. bank clients Western Union's remittance services.

Last month U.S. Bancorp said it would offer Western Union's services at all of its branches, replacing MoneyGram International Inc.

Bankers are showing increased interest in offering remittance services to customers, and observers have said that partnering with an established player like Western Union is easier than trying to develop a remittance service from scratch.

One of the main hurdles is that few major U.S. banking companies have the extensive reach needed to deliver remittances to receivers who are located all over the world, and often in developing countries.

Western Union has 375,000 agent locations worldwide.

By midday Tuesday, Western Union's shares had climbed 12.05% from Monday's closing price, to $15.99.

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