NCR Windows XP

NCR Corporation announced it will support Windows XP Professional, the premier operating system from Microsoft Corp., on select point-of-sale workstations by mid-2002. Developer-to-developer software will be available early in the second quarter.

Built on an enhanced Windows 2000 engine, Windows XP provides improved security, reliability and usability — increasingly critical requirements for the retail industry. NCR’s support for Windows XP will include open point of sale retail and application program interface support for NCR’s extensive portfolio of retail peripherals. Tools related to operating system recovery and systems management will also be provided.

NCR also plans to support Microsoft Windows XP Embedded and is currently collaborating on installation with key retail customers. Microsoft’s newest entry in the embedded space, Windows XP Embedded architecture utilizes key components of Windows XP and offers its advantages in conjunction with the ability to boot a system using CompactFlash or other media. Customized solutions made possible by a tailored operating platform can potentially lower the total cost of ownership and provide a smaller footprint. NCR also plans to provide OPOS support in the Windows XP Embedded environment.

“We are committed to providing our customers with the greatest choice and flexibility at the point of sale,” said Bruce Donis, NCR general manager, POS systems. “Windows XP and Windows XP Embedded will join a family of operating systems offered by NCR, providing retailers the flexibility to choose the platform that best meets their business and application needs.”

About NCR Corporation

NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) is a leader in providing Relationship Technology(TM) solutions to customers worldwide. NCR’s Relationship Technology solutions include the Teradata(R) database and analytical applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) and demand chain management, store automation systems and automated teller machines (ATMs). The company’s business solutions are built on the foundation of its long- established industry knowledge and consulting expertise, value-adding software, global customer support services, a complete line of consumable and media products, and leading edge hardware technology. NCR employs 32,900 in more than 100 countries, and is a component stock of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. More information about NCR and its solutions may be found at [http://www.ncr.com][1].

NCR and Teradata are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCR Corporation in the United States and other countries.

[1]: http://www.ncr.com/

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Wireless Retailing

As the National Retail Federation Convention and Expo gets underway this week in New York, the hottest exhibits will be around handheld wireless POS solutions. NCR will demonstrate its ‘Advanced Store@General Merchandise’ software platform which can be integrated with Web-enabled PDAs, Fujitsu Transaction Solutions will unveil its ‘iPAD’ handheld computer which runs on the Microsoft ‘Windows CE .NET’ operating system, and @pos will introduce the mobile ‘MX1000’. NCR will demonstrate its open solution with a ‘Symbol PPT 2800’ portable pen terminal, running ‘Microsoft Windows CE’. NCR says its system enables store associates to tally customers’ purchases while they are standing in line, greatly reducing the time needed to complete the transaction at the POS terminal. The featherweight Fujitsu ‘iPAD’ combines scanner, magnetic-card and smart-card reader, and keypad with encryption and wireless capabilities. The ‘@pos MX1000’ device fully integrates credit card payment processing, signature capture, and inventory data collection. The terminal is a wireless solution for inventory management, instant data retrieval, restaurants, route delivery or any environment where a mobile appliance is needed. The MX1000’s has a large backlit graphic LCD display, pressure sensitive touch pad, and integrated key pad which can be soft programmed to meet the retailer’s needs. With the built-in laser scanner, the MX1000 can read barcodes for merchandise data collection. (CF Library 1/9/02)

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Lodging 2002

While the U.S. card networks indicate flat payment card charge volume for the hotel/lodging sector during the fourth quarter, a new study found the fourth quarter’s occupancy to be 54.8%, the lowest since 1971. The PricewaterhouseCoopers’ analysis forecasts the full-year lodging industry occupancy will continue to decline in 2002 to 59.6%, compared to 60.3% in 2001, and 63.7% in 2000. PricewaterhouseCoopers also forecasts that no chain scale segment will enjoy occupancy gains until 2003. The PricewaterhouseCoopers research indicates that factors affecting occupancy, in ranked order, were concerns about: the economy; air travel inconvenience; possible air travel delays from perceived threats; and safety. (CF Library 1/9/02)

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Fleet 4Q/01

Fleet posted a 6% annual gain in receivables during 2001 while the issuer’s charge volume soared by 28%. Fleet reported 5,508,000 active accounts for the fourth quarter compared to 5,240,000 for 3Q/01 and 5,300,000 one year ago. For latest 4Q/01 portfolio stats for the nation’s top 350 issuers visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

FLEET TRACK RECORD
4Q/01 3Q/01 2Q/01 1Q/01 4Q/00 Y/Y CHG
RECV $15.6b $14.6b $14.5b $14.1b $14.7b +6.1%
VOL $ 6.8b $ 5.8b $ 5.5b $ 4.3b $ 5.3b +28.3%
ACCTS 7.0m 7.2m 6.6m 6.5m 6.8m +2.9%
Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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plaNet & FOO

First of Omaha Merchant Processing, a wholly-owned subsidiary of First National Bank of Omaha and one of the nation’s leading credit card acquirers, and plaNet Consulting Inc., a software solutions business unit of CSG Systems International, have entered into an alliance, whereby plaNet will provide software architecture, development, and maintenance services for two critical First of Omaha platforms. These development projects will provide First of Omaha with robust credit card authorization and billing platforms to be offered to their existing and prospective clients and will build upon the already solid relationship between the two firms.

“First of Omaha is excited to launch these two new project initiatives with plaNet. These projects, when completed, will allow us to provide considerably improved credit card authorization and related billing functionality to our existing clients,” said Nick Baxter, president of First of Omaha Merchant Processing.

“We, of course, are quite pleased to strengthen our existing relationship with First of Omaha. We have deployed an excellent team of resources to meet the demands of these assignments”, said Mike Wofford, president of plaNet Consulting. “plaNet specializes in providing payments-related solutions and we believe this engagement will play well to our strengths in this industry” Wofford said.

plaNet Consulting and First National of Nebraska have joined forces on a number of other fronts in recent years. plaNet is a leading customer of First of Omaha’s data center services offered through its First Technology Solutions business unit. plaNet provides application hosting services for several clients via its arrangement with First Technology Solutions. First of Omaha has previously licensed software from plaNet for the deployment of Web reporting and statement services for its merchant client base. The two firms continue to define areas in which they may leverage their strengths in the payments and technology sectors.

About First of Omaha Merchant Processing

First of Omaha Merchant Processing is a premier payment processor specializing in providing services to both the traditional and Internet direct marketing industry, as well as the traditional face-to-face card acceptance market. First of Omaha provides financial management and payment processing solutions for independent sales organizations, large and small retailers, restaurants, lodging merchants, petroleum marketers, associations/franchise groups and banks in both the business to consumer and business to business marketplaces. Known for their superior customer service, First of Omaha specializes in providing clients the latest in card processing technologies. Through development of a diversified product line, First of Omaha has become a leader in the merchant processing industry, assisting clients in the reduction of chargebacks and fraud. First of Omaha is a wholly-owned subsidiary of First National Bank of Omaha and is one of the few remaining in-house bank processors. First National Bank of Omaha, founded in 1863, is the 32nd oldest nationally chartered bank in existence. First of Omaha’s Internet address is [www.foomp.com][1].

About plaNet Consulting, Inc.

plaNet Consulting, a division of CSG Systems International, is a leading e-business solutions company providing products, services, consulting, and outsourcing to help customers facilitate electronic commerce via the Internet and other delivery channels. plaNet Consulting offers cost-effective, ready-to-deploy business solutions for e-commerce and knowledge portals. plaNet Consulting solutions are deployed using a customizable object framework enabling their clients a very short term ROI. icFoundation(TM), part of the Intelligent Commerce(TM) Product Suite, provides an application development platform for delivering highly scalable, mission critical solutions for companies conducting business-to-business and business-to-consumer commerce. plaNet Consulting has provided Internet, electronic data interchange (EDI), and consulting solutions to more than 150 customers in the United States and internationally. plaNet Consulting is a Microsoft(R) Certified Solution Provider, a Microsoft(R) Independent Software Vendor, and a Lotus Notes Business Partner. More information about plaNet Consulting can be found at [www.planetci.com][2].

[1]: http://www.foomp.com/
[2]: http://www.planetci.com/

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Top Ten Analysis

The average balance per active account among the nation’s top ten issuers was $2,368 at the end of November compared to $2,774 at the end of December 2000. According to Bankcard Barometer, the year-to-date charge volume posted an average of $3,765 as of Nov 30th.

ISSUER AAB AAV
1. Citibank $2316 $4295
2. MBNA $2388 $4197
3. First USA $3112 $5780
4. Discover $2054 $3563
5. Chase $2716 $4376
6. Capital One $1474 $1939
7. Providian $2639 $2294
8. BofA $2629 $4485
9. Household $1613 $3247
10. Fleet $2736 $3472
AAB – average balance per active account; AAV – average year-to-date
volume per active account;
Source: RAM Research’s Bankcard Barometer

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Check Volume

Despite shrinking share, the overall volume of checks written by consumers to pay bills continues to rise, according to the study released this morning. Checks account for 75% of total annual household bill payment volume, down from 79% in 1998, and a decline in share of 6%. According to the study by ESP Consulting, over that same period, the volume of checks written for bill payments rose by 25%. ESP found that cash is used to pay 6% of household bills, while credit cards and money orders each account for another 2% of payment volume. Credit card bills are most likely to be paid by check (88%), followed by utility bills (80%), communications bills (77%) and contributions (76%). Insurance bill payments (50%) are least likely to be paid by check. Just over one-half (52%) of households use some type of electronic bill payment method to pay at least one of their monthly bills. Of the 52% of households that use some type of electronic bill payment, 81% use ACH payments.

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Heartland Signs HSS Deal

Recently, Hotel Software Systems, LTD and Heartland Payment Systems Inc. completed an exclusive agreement to offer HPS credit card processing services to HSS customers through expanded interface technology.

Currently, HPS’ newly developed credit card processing interface, which resides on a VisaNet platform, is being used by a select group of HSS merchants. Additionally, the HPS interface allows HSS to offer its customers a choice of credit card processing interfaces in addition to their existing card processing modules operating on the Paymentech and First Data platforms. An acknowledged leader in the transaction processing industry, Heartland has extensive experience with clients specializing in the lodging, restaurant and food service industries, and is an endorsed provider of services to numerous state hospitality associations.

“Our heritage is in the hospitality industry, and our commitment is to develop innovative products and services to meet the needs of our hotel and restaurant partners,” said Sanford Brown, senior vice president Hospitality Market, HPS. “The relationship between HSS and HPS will help us both better service our customers by offering HSS merchants more choices in a card processing service provider.

“This strategic partnership allows both companies to better serve the needs of our existing hotel customers and provides us with additional opportunities to expand our product offerings to each other’s merchant base.” Heartland is committed to the success of the lodging industry and partnering in their success. The HPS and HSS partnership offers customers of both organizations a product offering that has not been previously available, which includes expanded customer service with local, statewide representation from an established company that focuses on credit card and payroll processing. HSS customers benefit by gaining more personalized service, competitive pricing, and additional options when selecting a credit card processor. Ken Fuller, SVP, HSS, stated, “HPS has demonstrated that it is a leading, established player in the hospitality industry. We are excited about this partnership and look forward to the increased choices it will provide to all of our hotel customers. Our customers have been requesting this new credit card interface for some time, and this is an answer to that request. “We have every confidence that Heartland is the right company to provide these services to our customers. Heartland’s innovative technology, national distribution channel, and commitment to customer service are appealing to us as we seek new ways to introduce additional products to our customers and expand our position in the marketplace.”

About HSS

Hotel Software Systems, LTD was acquired by a group of investors including the current chief executive officer and partners of AdVantage Management Fund in November 1997. HSS main corporate offices are in Portland, Ore. Sales offices are located in Scottsdale, Ariz. and Baltimore. HSS sells, installs, and services property management software systems (PMS) used by hotels with less than 300 rooms for functions such as check-in, check-out, reservations, and related functions. HSS’ leading PMS product, Front Clerk, also provides interfaces to third-party systems such as central reservation systems, voice mail, phone call accounting, in-room movies, electronic key cards, and credit card transactions. Currently, HSS serves more than 5,000 hotel properties nationally. For more information about HSS, please visit them online at [www.hssltd.com][1] or contact Ken Fuller at 800/634-9248

About Heartland

Heartland Payment Systems Inc. (HPS) is a full-service payment systems solutions provider, handling merchant card and payroll processing services for over 50,000 merchants of all types and sizes. Using a strategically located national sales force, HPS builds long-term business relationships in local sales territories providing merchants with enhanced technology tools that assist them in more effectively operating their businesses. For more information about HPS, please visit them online at [http://www.heartlandpaymentsystems.com][2] or [http://www.e-hps.com][3] or contact Sanford C. Brown at 888/472-0065.

[1]: http://www.hssltd.com/
[2]: http://www.heartlandpaymentsystems.com/
[3]: http://www.e-hps.com/

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Ann Taylor Sells Cards

AnnTaylor Stores Corporation announced sales for the five weeks ended January 5, 2002, increased 7.7 percent to $167,094,000 from $155,224,000 for the five weeks ended December 30, 2000.

Comparable store sales decreased 2.4 percent for the fiscal month compared with a comparable store sales decrease of 0.3 percent for the same five-week period last year. By division, comparable store sales for fiscal December 2001 were down 5.2 percent for the Ann Taylor division and up 5.3 percent for the new concept Ann Taylor Loft division.

Due to the early Thanksgiving holiday this year versus last, the Company is providing December and nine weeks ended January 5, 2002 comparable store sales on a shifted calendar basis. Comparable store sales on a shifted calendar basis for the month of December increased 6.6 percent, while comparable store sales on a shifted calendar basis for the nine-week period increased 2.9 percent. By division, shifted calendar comparable store sales for the month of December were up 4.7 percent for the Ann Taylor division and up 12.3 percent for the new concept Ann Taylor Loft division. By division, shifted calendar comparable store sales for the nine week period ended January 5, 2002 were up 0.3 percent for the Ann Taylor division and up 10.3 percent for the new concept Ann Taylor Loft division.

Ann Taylor Chairman J. Patrick Spainhour said, “Although we are pleased with December’s better than expected comparable store sales results, the fourth quarter environment continues to prove to be extremely promotional. However, early sales results on January transitional product, which accounts for less than 10 percent of the current month’s in-store inventory, have been satisfactory. Due to the ongoing aggressive promotional environment of the quarter that is resulting in reduced margin opportunity, we still continue to be comfortable with fourth quarter earnings guidance in the range of $0.25 – $0.30 per share on a diluted basis excluding the charge described below.”

Inventory levels at the end of December were down approximately 10 percent on a per square foot basis, compared to the prior year. This follows an approximate 9 percent decrease in inventory levels on a per square foot basis, at the end of November 2001, compared to the prior year. Both comparisons exclude inventory attributable to Ann Taylor Global Sourcing.

From a national perspective, the Company continues to be most negatively impacted in downtown and tourist locations. For fiscal December, comparable store sales in downtown and tourist locations decreased approximately 14 percent, following an 11 percent decrease in these same locations for November. Geographically, the results in the West and South regions continue to lag in comparison to the rest of the country. This performance was consistent across both the Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft divisions.

The Company did not open or close any stores during December. The total store count at month end was 342 Ann Taylor stores, 168 Ann Taylor Loft stores, 18 Ann Taylor Loft Outlet stores and 13 Ann Taylor Factory stores. Total store square footage at the end of the month increased 13.9 percent over the year before.

Year-to-date sales of $1,214,536,000 for the 48 weeks ended January 5, 2002 represent an increase of 5.6 percent over sales of $1,149,795,000 for the 48 weeks ended December 30, 2000. The Company’s year-to-date comparable stores sales decreased 7.3 percent over the same period last year. Comparable store sales by division for the fiscal year-to-date period were down 10.2 percent for Ann Taylor and up 3.4 percent for new concept Ann Taylor Loft.

AnnTaylor Stores Corporation also announced today a pre-tax charge to earnings in the fourth quarter of 2001 of approximately $17 million or an earnings per share impact of $0.33. This charge is comprised of approximately $7 million for the writedown of certain assets associated with AnnTaylor.com, approximately $3.3 million for the settlement of a class action lawsuit, as well as charges related to the discontinuation of the Ann Taylor Cosmetics line, costs associated with canceling certain Fall 2001 and Spring 2002 merchandise orders and severance costs associated with reductions made in Ann Taylor’s store and home office workforce. Going forward, the projected annual pre-tax savings will be approximately $3.5 million or $0.06 per share on a diluted basis.

The $7 million write-off associated with the Company’s Online Store, was based upon projected cash flows, which were not deemed adequate to support the value of the assets associated with this ongoing business. The Online Store failed to achieve the sales volume that it was expected to perform prior to its launch in November of 2000.

The Company has reached an agreement in principle to settle the class action lawsuit pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Company, its wholly-owned subsidiary and certain former officers and directors, alleging that the defendants made false and misleading statements about the Company and its subsidiary from February 3, 1994 through May 4, 1995. The net cost to the Company, after application of insurance proceeds, will be approximately $3.3 million. The decision to settle this action was not an admission of any wrong-doing, but reflected the significant legal fees, other expenses and management time that would have to be devoted to continue to vigorously defend it in the courts. Finalization of the settlement is subject to Court approval.

In addition, Ann Taylor announced it has reached an agreement in principle to sell its proprietary credit card portfolio. The sale is subject to entering into a definitive agreement and receiving all necessary approvals and consents. Depending on the level of receivables as of the signing date, the Company expects to receive cash of approximately $55 million upon the completion of the sale. The Company anticipates that the sale of the proprietary credit card portfolio will provide the means for strategic growth of the Ann Taylor credit card.

The Company also announced today an amendment to its existing $175 million credit facility primarily consisting of revisions to its financial covenants and specifically excludes the pre-tax charge from covenant calculations.

Ann Taylor is one of the country’s leading women’s specialty retailers, operating 541 stores in 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and also an Online Store at [http://www.anntaylor.com][1].

[1]: http://www.anntaylor.com/

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Blackstone POS Patent

Blackstone (http://www.blackstoneonline.com), one of the nation’s leading electronic providers of prepaid telecommunications products and services, announced the approval of the first of many anticipated US and worldwide patents for its revolutionary Blackstone POS.

Blackstone has developed a truly innovative point-of-sale system utilizing customized applications and software supported on the Hypercom ICE 5500 point of sale platform. By successfully integrating the processing of all major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express & Discover Card) and ATM/Debit/EBT cards with the sale of prepaid products and bill payment services, into one, easy-to-use POS terminal, Blackstone POS, is revolutionizing the electronic transaction industry.

According to John Marshall, Blackstone’s Prepaid Systems Division president, “Today is the first of many exciting days for Blackstone. In recognition of the Blackstone POS terminal and system’s novelty, the United States Patent Office has agreed to grant Blackstone broad rights to protect its exclusive technology against market copyists, including those who sell essential components of the terminal and system.”

Peter Matos, Malloy & Malloy, PA added, “Blackstone has and will continue to make substantial strides to continue securing a broad foundation of United States and foreign patent and other intellectual property protection. Moreover, this foundation of intellectual property extends to Blackstone proprietary hardware, software and methodology, all of which set the Blackstone POS apart.”

Blackstone has rapidly become one of the country’s largest providers of prepaid telecommunications products and services with over 300,000 retail locations nationwide. Established and headquartered in Miami, Florida since 1995, Blackstone is privately owned, and managed by a team of executives experienced in payment processing, information technologies, networking, retailing and prepaid telecommunications. Today, Blackstone is successfully merging two industries, prepaid telecommunications and electronic transactions, into one terminal to the benefit of both consumers and merchants across the United States.

For more information on Blackstone’s products and services, call 1-800-639-9590 or visit .

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724 4Q/01

724 Solutions, a leading provider of secure mobile transaction infrastructure, reported preliminary results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended December 31, 2001 (all figures in U.S. dollars).

The company anticipates revenues for the fourth fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2001 to be approximately $5.6-$6.0 million, which is below its previously stated expectations of $7.0-$8.0 million. Revenues for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2001 are expected to be $43.6-$44.0 million, compared to $21.2 million for the prior year.

Based upon these preliminary revenue results, the company currently estimates that pro forma loss per share for the fourth fiscal quarter will be $0.23-$0.25. Pro forma loss for the fiscal year is expected to be $1.06-$1.08 compared to $1.05 in the previous year. Pro forma loss is net loss for the period, adjusted for amortization of intangibles, equity in income (loss) of affiliate, stock-based compensation, write-down of intangibles, long-term investments and other assets, restructuring costs and certain non-recurring expenses. As of December 31, 2001, the company had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $89.1 million.

The company also continued the restructuring activities which it began in the spring of 2001, resulting in an additional 20 percent reduction in annualized operating expense from previously announced levels. These additional restructuring activities, which will include reductions in employees, facilities and other operating expenses, will be implemented in Q1 2002.

About 724 Solutions Inc.

724 Solutions Inc. (Nasdaq:SVNX) (TSE:SVN) is a leading provider of mobile Internet infrastructure software and applications. It makes m-business happen globally by powering the delivery of secure mobile transactions for financial institutions and mobile operators. With dual headquarters in Toronto, Canada, and Austin, Texas, the company has development and sales offices around the world. For more information, visit www.724.com.

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MBNA 4Q/01

MBNA weathered a tough economic fourth quarter with strong earnings and solid account growth, in face of lower than expected non-interest income and rising delinquency and charge-offs. During the fourth quarter, MBNA signed up 2.8 million new customers representing 2.4 million new accounts. Delinquency hit 5.09% compared to approximately 4.94% one year ago, and charge-offs hit 4.86% for 4Q/01 compared to 3.87% for 4Q/00. Card volume for the fourth quarter was up 12.4% over 4Q/00, logging in at $39,201,482,000. MBNA’s net income for the quarter was $524.8 million compared with $423.8 million for 4Q/00. Total managed loans at Dec 31, were $97.5 billion, a $4.9 billion increase over the third quarter. MBNA signed 110 new affinity contracts during the quarter and renewed 300 deals. MBNA also reported that its Web site now serves more than 5.6 million customers and they have signed up 900,000 new customers via the Internet last year. For complete details on MBNA’s 4Q/01 report and historical data visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

[1]: http://www.carddata.com

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