GZS & FDC

Gesellschaft fur Zahlungssysteme has agreed to be acquired by US-based First Data Corporation. GZS processes 982 million transactions annually and provides outsourced processing services for 8.5 million German and Swiss credit cards. GZS also provides merchant processing services for its clients who serve more than 300,000 merchants. The acquisition complements First Data’s expansion during 2004 into
Greece, and during this year into Austria, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia,
Lithuania, Latvia, Serbia and Montenegro, Russia, Hungary and the Nordic
region. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed but it is expected to close in the second quarter.

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JWARE Technologies and Abbrevia Partner

JWARE Technologies and Abbrevia have signed a partnership agreement.
This agreement will strengthen JWARE’s commercial and support presence
in Saudi Arabia and Iran. JWARE Technologies develops payment and secure
transaction processing software. Abbrevia is an innovative provider of
leading-edge mobile commerce, e-commerce and EFT payments solutions that
targets the Middle East, North Africa & South Asia.

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Regulation E Now Covers Payroll Cards

The Federal Reserve Board has amended “Regulation E” so that it covers payroll card accounts. The Electronic Fund Transfer Act clarifies the responsibilities of parties involved in electronic check conversion transactions and require that consumers receive written notification in advance of these transactions. Additional revisions to the regulation’s official staff commentary provide guidance on preauthorized transfers from consumers’ accounts, error resolution, and disclosures at automated teller machines (ATMs). The mandatory compliance date is January 1, 2007.

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JCB Certified for BS7799-2:2002

JCB has been certified for both the BS7799-2:2002, an internationally
recognized security standard, and the Information Security Management
Systems (ISMS) Standard (Ver.2.0), the Japanese certification criteria
which was developed based on BS7799-2:2002. BS7799-2:2002 is the latest
version of BS7799-2, an internationally recognized standard for
information system security management established by the BSI (British
Standards Institute), and ISMS Standard certification is a third-party
information security management assessment program operated by the Japan
Information Processing Development Corporation (JIPDEC). JCB information
security management was assessed in credit card operations and in the
related areas of card operations services, financing, credit guarantee,
collections and gift certificate issuing and sales.

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VISA Asia Pacific Says Tourism Returns

According to the latest tourist spending data released by VISA Asia
Pacific, tourism recovery and spending growth in the tsunami-affected
markets are consistent with that of the rest of Asia Pacific. Visitor
card spending in four of the tourist destinations hit by the tsunami –
India, Malaysia, Maldives and Thailand recorded international cardholder
spending growth compared with the same period just prior to the 26
December tsunami. For the week ending 11 December, India and Thailand
recorded double-digit tourism spend growth of 23% and 12% respectively. Overall, the tsunami-affected markets recorded cardholder spending representing approximately eight percent growth, which is the
same as all of Asia Pacific. In addition, one of the tourist
destinations that has struggled to recover, Phuket, has recorded
year-on-year tourism spend growth for only the third time this year.
There are currently 265.9 million VISA-branded cards in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Millions of Shoppers Seek Boxing Day Bargains

Almost six million Canadians headed to stores in search of “Boxing Day”
bargains with the average shopper spending $319. Fifty percent of the
shoppers were still looking for holiday gifts for the 2005 holiday
season. The total amount spent on “Boxing Day” is expected
to top $1.8 billion according to Maritz Research for VISA. VISA expected to process more than two million credit card transactions totaling over $300 million in sales volumes. VISA also revealed that 21 million Canadians expected to spend $19.5 billion on holiday gifts this year.

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Average Card Premiums Top 20% in 2005

The average premium above portfolio asset value rose to 20.43% last year, the highest price level in more than ten years. Excluding the $35 billion BofA/MBNA merger that closed Sunday, more than $44 billion in credit card assets traded hands in 2005. According to R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, the highest known valuation premium reported during 2005 was 31.0% compared to 27.4% for 2004. Hammer says 70 larger deals sold in 2005 (75 for 2004), not including over 100 very small deals. R.K. Hammer covers prime and subprime card portfolios, national brand and private label card programs and domestic and international card issuers.

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COO Karp Steps Down at Optimal

Optimal Group announced that Henry Karp has stepped down as
President and Chief Operating Officer as December 31st, but will
continue to serve on the Board of Directors of the Company. No successor
will be appointed, the senior executive function will be carried out by
Holden Ostrin, Co-Chairman and Neil Wechsler, Co-Chairman and Chief
Executive Officer. Optimal Group is a payments and services
company with operations throughout North America and the United Kingdom.

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HSBC Plans to Add AmEx Cards in Mid-2006

HSBC has agreed to become the fifth U.S. issuer of American Express cards. In return, AmEx has agreed to dismiss HSBC from its antitrust lawsuit against VISA, MasterCard and other U.S. banks. Under the terms of the agreement, HSBC will issue the cards, manage customer relationships and be responsible for all marketing, billing, charge authorizations and credit management. HSBC expects to begin issuing cards in mid-2006.

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Certegy to Acquire FastFunds for $14MM

FL-based Certegy has inked a definitive deal to acquire certain assets of FastFunds and its wholly owned subsidiary Chex Services for $14 million in cash. FastFunds provides cash access services including check cashing, ATM access, and credit and debit card cash advance services to approximately 50 casinos and gaming establishments in the USA, Canada and the Caribbean. The acquisition is expected to close during the first quarter. Certegy provides credit and debit processing, check risk management and cash access services, merchant processing and e-banking services to over 6,500 financial institutions, 100,000 retailers and 100 million consumers worldwide.

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AmeriDebt Spouse Coughs Up Assets to FTC

AmeriDebt, Inc. spouse agrees to forfeit all rights to $4 million in assets currently held in receivership with the FTC. Relief defendant Pamela Pukke, the estranged wife of AmeriDebt founder Andris Pukke, has agreed to forfeit all rights to assets currently held in receivership and will cooperate with the Federal Trade Commission in its continuing case against her husband and his company, DebtWorks. The FTC alleged that she received significant assets from AmeriDebt’s deceptive operations but did not actively participate in or control the defendants’ deceptive debt-management scheme. The money collected from Mrs. Pukke will be used to provide consumer redress.

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