MBNA Corp. is breaking out of its core credit card business - but adhering to the same core principles.

The second-largest bank card issuer's marketing continues to revolve around affinity groups. As of midyear, it had signed more than 4,600, including 600 in the United Kingdom and 70 in Canada.

"We continue to acquire high-quality groups," whose members have high incomes and good credit histories, said Richard K. Struthers, a senior vice chairman at Wilmington, Del.-based MBNA. "Keep doing all those things right, and you will continue to keep the shareholders happy."

For the second quarter, MBNA increased its net income by more than 20% for the 21st straight reporting period. Fee income and diversification into new markets were key factors.

The international business in 1997 grew 56%, to $2.8 billion in loans, and the U.K. market share was 8% four years after MBNA entered that market. The company has also ventured into insurance.

"What tided them over in a period of relatively slow domestic credit industry growth is international and noncard lending," said Robert G. Hottensen Jr., managing director at Goldman, Sachs & Co., New York.

MBNA is a leader in the platinum-card market with $15 billion in loans, 28% of the $52.7 billion on the books June 30.

"We just keep moving along," Mr. Struthers said. "Other people might be merging and doing other things. We like being pretty successful and pretty consistent."

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