MBNA – Dover Downs

Dover Downs and MBNA have extended and expanded their affinity credit card and sponsorship agreement. Under the revised agreement MBNA will will add sponsorship of the newly scheduled NASCAR ‘Craftsman Truck Series’ race at Dover in September, 2000. The agreement also extends the relationship through 2002 and, in the case of the fall NASCAR ‘Winston Cup’ and ‘Busch Series’ races at Dover, through 2003.


Sears 4Q Projections

Sears, Roebuck and Co. reported this week that it expects fourth quarter earnings before non-comparable items to increase at a high-teen to low-twenty percentage rate over last year’s $1.48 per share due to improved performance in its full-line stores and continuing strength in the company’s credit business.

Based on these current trends, the company also is revising its full-year outlook for earnings per share, anticipating an increase at a high single- digit to low-teen percentage rate excluding non-comparable items.

“Customers continue to recognize and respond to Sears strong value proposition, which is supported by integrated marketing and merchandising initiatives,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arthur C. Martinez. “At the same time, we are seeing improved margin performance in our full-line stores, strong performance in our international and credit businesses as well as solid results from our cost containment measures, which more than offset soft performance in our services segment.”


The company announced total domestic store revenues for the five weeks ending January 1, 2000 were $4.52 billion. Comparable domestic store revenues decreased 0.6 percent. Total domestic store revenues increased 1.2 percent, excluding the impact of the company’s divestiture of HomeLife. On a reported basis, revenues were 0.2 percent below revenues of $4.53 billion for the five weeks ending January 2, 1999.

“In contrast to last year’s high level of promotional activity during the fourth quarter, we adopted a more focused promotional plan in order to deliver stronger margin performance, particularly in our apparel business,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arthur C. Martinez. “Throughout the holiday season, we offered customers the values they were looking for on the merchandise they wanted without significantly increasing our marketing or promotional costs. Sales were particularly strong in home appliances, electronics, home fashions, fine jewelry and the infants’ and toddlers’ category. In addition, we were very pleased with our Internet sales, which significantly exceeded expectations.”

Through its network of more than 850 full-line stores, 2,100 specialty stores and on-line offerings, Sears provides apparel, home and automotive products and related services for families throughout the country.

Sears, Roebuck and Co.
5 Weeks 48 Weeks

1999 Domestic Store Revenues $4,523,400,000 $28,093,200,000
1998 Domestic Store Revenues 4,531,500,000 28,673,700,000
Percent Change (0.2)% (2.0)%
Comparable Domestic Stores
Percent Change (0.6)% 1.8%

1999 Total Revenues $5,674,500,000 $38,058,100,000
1998 Total Revenues 5,589,900,000 38,488,300,000
Percent Change 1.5% (1.1)%


Card Traffic Strains

The Korean Exchange Bank Credit Service Company said this morning it has deployed Packeteer’s ‘PacketShaper’ bandwidth management solution at all 24 branch offices nationwide. The increasing IP network traffic demands placed an incredible strain on KEB’s mission-critical, SNA traffic and Web-based customer credit applications. The Credit Card Service originally tried to fix the problem by mandating that all workers stay off the Internet but found a better solution with ‘PacketShapers’.


CheckFree Prez

CheckFree announced Tuesday that Thomas Stampiglia, formerly with Lanier Worldwide, has joined the company as president of CheckFree’s Software Division. Stampiglia will take over the responsibilities of Software Division president from Sean Feeney, a three-year CheckFree executive who, for the past year, has been serving dual roles as president of the Software Division and EVP, biller field operations, for CheckFree’s largest division, Electronic Commerce. After transitioning his Software Division responsibilities to Stampiglia, Feeney will retain his EVP title and focus full-time on increasing CheckFree’s lead in the electronic billing and payment market.


Up and Coming Q Comm

Q Comm International, Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: QCCM), a prepaid telecommunications service provider, has been named one of the Top Ten Companies To Watch for 2000 in the current January Issue of Intele-Card News Magazine.

The Intele-Card News Top Ten To Watch program is an annual selection by the publication’s editorial staff of the most promising prepaid telecommunications companies for the coming year. While it admits that there’s no scientific formula for its selection methodology, Intele-Card News notes that majority of the Top Ten companies selected last year have expanded and grown significantly in 1999. For inclusion in the Top Ten To Watch for this year, Intele-Card News considered dramatic company growth from one year to the next; product innovation; steadfast progress in building a company brand; and a demonstrated commitment to support the prepaid industry. Among the public companies selected this year, in addition to Q Comm, are Shared Technologies Cellular, Inc. (Nasdaq: STCL) and PubliCARD Inc. (Nasdaq: CARD).

“This recognition is a testament by the prepaid telecom industry’s leading authorities of Q Comm’s vision and business plan implementation,” said Paul Hickey, CEO of Q Comm International. “We know we’re in an explosive industry with the right product solution, strategic plan and management team. This combination is already paying big dividends and we’re very excited about the growth and plan implementation coming in 2000.”


Q Comm International Inc., a leading provider of proprietary and prepaid telecom services including phone cards, wireless, and dial tone, sells it products through high-transaction, small to mid-size retail environments throughout the U.S. The company markets direct to retailers as well as through its expanding national network of telecom resellers. At the core of Q Comm’s marketing strategy for its prepaid telephone products and services is Qxpress(TM), the Company’s versatile, revolutionary POSA terminal that dispenses the telephone units at retail locations for all of the Company’s products. The Qxpress terminal virtually eliminates a retailer’s concern with security, theft, inventory and shelf space limitations. Qxpress(TM) is designed to act as a conduit for multiple telecommunications carriers, can be easily programmed to meet a retailers pricing needs and prints out flexible activity reports. The unique pay-as-you-go Qxpress terminal looks similar to a credit card transaction terminal, is easy to use, does not require a merchant to stock active, prepaid telephone products, eliminates initial start-up costs, and offers additional solutions to the marketplace that traditional services fail to deliver.

The prepaid phone card and prepaid wireless markets are two of the fastest-growing segments in the telecommunications industry. Independent researcher, The Yankee Group, estimates that these markets will grow to over $4.3 billion and $20 billion, respectively, by the year 2002. Q Comm is confident that it will be a major player in these markets given the company’s established distribution channels and its extensive experience in the telecommunications industry.


Working Assets Update

San Francisco-based Working Assets celebrates its 15-year anniversary this year and intends to generate $20 million for progressive nonprofits working toward social change.

In those 15 years, the long distance, credit card, Internet services and broadcasting company, which is based on a unique business model that donates a portion of its revenues to progressive nonprofit groups, has seen growth and success and has supported hundreds of causes around the world.

Working Assets will further diversify in 2000 as it increases Internet involvement and introduces new telecommunications products. The company aims to raise $5 million for nonprofits in 2000. Working Assets grew revenue to more than $140 million in 1999 and launched four new products — ShopForChange.com, GiveForChange.com, VolunteerForChange.com and Working Assets Broadcasting (KWAB, its flagship radio station, is in Boulder, Colo.).

Working Assets is also one of the most powerful progressive citizen-action groups in the nation. In 1999 alone, customers generated nearly 1 million calls and letters to Congress, the White House and business leaders on issues of critical public concern. These customer actions resulted in victories in the company’s five focal areas: Civil Rights, Education & Freedom of Expression, Economic & Social Justice, the Environment and Peace and International Development.

Pressing issues that Working Assets will take a public stand on in early 2000 include endorsing stricter federal handgun control measures and supporting efforts to defeat the “Knight Initiative’s” attempt to ban same-sex marriage in California.

“When we created Working Assets 15 years ago, critics told us that a company had to be dedicated to making money above everything else. Otherwise, it wouldn’t last,” said Laura Scher, CEO. “We proved those critics wrong. Working Assets is a successful company that is not afraid to take a stand on controversial issues such as protecting a woman’s right to choose, supporting gay and lesbian rights, and protecting the environment. We challenge other like-minded companies to copy our business model in the new millennium and become advocates for progressive social change.”


Today, Working Assets announced that 60 groups will receive donations for the year 2000, up from 30 in 1985. 2000 recipients will include Amnesty International, Sweatshop Watch, ACLU, Greenpeace, Global Fund for Women and East Timor Action Network, to name a few (a complete list is available at [www.workingassets.com][1]). In democratic fashion, customers nominate groups to receive funding and vote on how the donations will be distributed among the selected groups at the end of each year.

“Working Assets’ contributions have made a profound difference over the years to Amnesty International and to those whose rights we strive to protect,” said Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Not only do we receive critically needed financial help to continue our work but we are exposed to an increasing audience whose grassroots support is essential. It’s deeply gratifying to be included on the donations list for 2000.”

Citizen Action Victories

Since 1991, Working Assets’ Citizen Action program has provided an easy way for customers to speak out by highlighting two crucial political issues each month, explaining what’s at stake and whom to contact. Long distance customers can call the targeted decision-makers free of charge and ShopForChange customers can send a free e-mail to corporate leaders. In 1999, Working Assets launched its New York Citizen Action program. It joins the two-year-old California Citizen Action program in giving customers information on state issues and access to state-specific decision-makers.

Working Assets had several important Citizen Action victories in 1999 including: convincing President Clinton to assist in the prosecution of Chilean human rights violator Augusto Pinochet by declassifying thousands of intelligence documents; saving thousands of independent bookstores from being crushed by the anti-competitive merger of Barnes & Noble and Ingram; and changing Home Depot’s policy of selling old-growth wood products.

Working Assets’ New Products and Services

In 1999, Working Assets launched a trio of Web sites that promote social change — ShopForChange.com, GiveForChange.com and VolunteerForChange.com. On ShopForChange.com, an online shopping village featuring more than 75 merchants, Working Assets donates 5% of every purchase to nonprofit groups. At GiveForChange.com, individuals select from hundreds of progressive nonprofit organizations to which they can make an online donation.

VolunteerForChange.com provides extensive listings of volunteer opportunities, making it simple for a user to locate groups that need a helping hand. To celebrate the launch of these new sites, Working Assets will match every donation of up to $50 made through GiveForChange through January 15.

In October of 1999, Working Assets took its progressive voice to the airwaves, launching Working Assets Broadcasting in Boulder, Colo., with KWAB-AM 1490, a progressive talk radio station available worldwide via a real time Internet simulcast at [www.workingassetsradio.com][2]. To support the nonprofit community in Boulder, KWAB runs at least one public service announcement per broadcast hour.

Working Assets’ donations-linked products and services also include Working Assets Long Distance, which gives 1% of revenue to nonprofits; Working Assets Credit Card, which gives 10 cents to nonprofits every time a customer makes a credit card purchase; and Working Assets Internet Access, which donates 1% of monthly service charges to nonprofits.

[1]: http://www.workingassets.com/
[2]: http://www.workingassetsradio.com/


Counterfeit COP

Tempe, AZ-based ConSyGen signed a purchase agreement yesterday with First Data Merchant Services for the distribution of ConSyGen’s counterfeit detection device, ‘Counterfeit COP’. The company recently announced it has moved from a direct sales model to a reseller/distribution model. The firm has developed a network of over 60 resellers. ‘Counterfeit COP’ verifies the authenticity of U.S. and foreign currency, credit cards, traveler’s checks, driver’s licenses, immigration cards, U.S. passports and many other documents.



Talk.com signed a strategic marketing agreement with First USA yesterday. Under terms of the agreement Talk.com will market low-cost, long distance services to First USA’s 65 million cardholders. The telecom services will be promoted via online and direct mail. First USA will offer automatic billing of Talk.com services to First USA-issued credit cards. Talk.com says Tuesday’s pact is the largest marketing deal it has struck. The company also has a relationship with AOL.


Dec Sales

December same-store sales climbed 5.8% over December 1998, according to data compiled by TeleCheck Services. The Northeast region led the nation, followed by the Southwest, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Southeast and West (tied). The Northeast’s sales jumped 6.2%, with Massachusetts up 6.4% and New York up 6.2%.The ‘TeleCheck Retail Index’ is based on a year-over-year, same-store comparison of the dollar volume of checks written by consumers at more than 27,000 of TeleCheck’s 210,000 subscribing locations.


Profits Recover

Thanks to softening charge-offs, lower consumer bankruptcies and rising income yield the average pre-tax, return-on-assets for credit card portfolios last year is projected to settle out at 3.1%. CA-based R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers reported this week that its 1999 earnings model also shows that 74% of card income was derived from interest revenue while 26% came from fee income. Hammer says its study also confirms that platinum credit cards continue to deliver the highest ROA of any credit card product. Last year standard cards produced a 2.1% ROA; gold cards a 2.9% ROA; and platinum cards a 3.4% ROA. Over the course of the 1990s card profits have followed a roller coaster pattern even tough operating expenses have consistently declined.

U.S. Bank Credit Card Profitability Historical
(VISA, MasterCard, and Discover)
1989 21.3% 5.5% 3.8% 7.9% 4.1%
1990 20.9% 5.1% 4.3% 7.8% 3.7%
1991 20.5% 4.8% 4.7% 7.6% 3.4%
1992 19.4% 4.9% 4.9% 6.5% 3.1%
1993 18.6% 4.7% 4.6% 6.0% 3.3%
1994 18.5% 4.5% 4.4% 5.7% 3.9%
1995 18.0% 4.2% 4.1% 6.1% 3.6%
1996 17.9% 4.3% 4.2% 6.1% 3.3%
1997 17.4% 4.3% 4.6% 5.9% 2.6%
1998 17.3% 4.4% 4.7% 5.7% 2.5%
1999 17.9% 4.5% 4.4% 5.9% 3.1%
INC-total income; OX-operating expense; CO-charge-offs;
COF-cost-of-funds; ROA-net pre-tax return-on-assets
Source: R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers