Despite posting a fourth-quarter loss, largely on expenses resulting from a data breach, Heartland Payment Systems Inc. reported "encouraging progress" in small and midsize merchant transaction processing volume and same-store sales.

"After more than a year of tremendous legal and related distractions, we are optimistic that we are close to returning to more normalized operations," Robert Carr, Heartland's chairman and chief executive, said on a conference call with analysts Thursday.

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