GE & Signature

Richmond, VA-based GE Financial Assurance confirmed Friday evening it has completed its acquisition of The Signature Group from Montgomery Ward & Company. GEFA also announced that Kathryn Marinello has been named President and CEO of The Signature Group. Marinello led GE Capital’s consumer financial services business for two years, and has served as EVP of GE Capital Card Services since Dec. 1998. Founded in 1966, The Signature Group’s offerings range from travel services and auto club memberships to home shopping and legal services. Based in Schaumburg, IL, Signature currently serves 13 million customers and mails over 200 million offers annually to consumers across the U.S. The firm has a number of affinity relationships. By acquiring Signature, GEFA adds several membership-based offerings to a consumer product menu that already includes life insurance, annuities, mutual funds, long term care insurance, auto insurance, retirement plans, supplemental accident and health insurance and extended auto warranties.

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AMS Licenses e-Decisioning

American Management Systems, Inc. and decisioning.com, Inc., a subsidiary of Affinity Technology Group, Inc. Friday announced the signing of a patent licensing agreement that enables AMS to incorporate Affinity’s patented automated lending technology in systems developed by AMS.

AMS has integrated this innovative technology into its iCredit suite of products that provide fully automated instant credit decisioning for customers applying through the Internet. With iCredit, financial institutions can quickly capitalize on the increasing consumer demand for on-the-spot credit approval anytime, anywhere. iCredit is one example of AMS’s full spectrum of e-commerce solutions.

Affinity said that decisioning.com expects to receive at least $1 million in licensing fees under the AMS agreement during the next 18 months. Terms for individual licenses, to be granted by decisioning.com to AMS clients, were not disclosed.

“Our agreement with Affinity ensures that AMS clients remain in the vanguard of Internet lending technology,” said Robert Kramer, Vice President, Consumer Financial Services of AMS.

“We partnered with Bank of Montreal to deliver the first web site with instant online decisioning for mortgage, student loan and credit card applications in 1997. We have now successfully deployed this patented technology into our iCredit products. As a result, our clients can be first to market and first to innovate with Internet-based customer self service lending, creating competitive advantage at a substantially reduced risk.”

“We see this agreement with AMS as the first of many opportunities to license Affinity’s patented technology to developers and users of automated lending systems,” said Murray Smith, President and CEO of Affinity and decisioning.com. “In addition, we will continue to sell rtDS, Affinity’s real time outsourced decision service for Internet lenders that renders decisions on Internet loan applications using the lender’s credit policy. rtDS is available today for decisioning mortgages, home equity loans and lines of credit, auto loans and leases, credit cards, and other unsecured loans and lines of credit.”

The AMS-decisioning.com agreement covers U.S. Patent 5,870,721 and related pending patents. Issued in February, this Affinity patent covers fully automated systems for lending. Affinity Technology Group has assigned to decisioning.com exclusive rights under the patent, including the right to sublicense the patent, in the Internet field of use. Affinity retains patent rights for systems taking applications by other means, such as its Automated Loan Machine.

About iCredit

iCredit is AMS’s software suite that enables organizations to provide instant, interactive credit originations through all delivery channels. This suite includes ACAPS Enterprise, the market leading credit application processing solution; ACAPS Anywhere, the intuitive GUI for access to ACAPS Enterprise at multiple delivery channels; Credit Xpress, the real time Internet lending application system; BureauLink, the rapid linkage to credit bureau information; and Strata, the customer-based decision management platform.

About AMS

AMS’s consumer financial services practice specializes in customer management strategy and technology consulting for large institutions. AMS is a world-class international business and information technology consulting firm. As one of the 20 largest consulting firms worldwide, AMS provides a full range of services and solutions: eCommerce, customer value management, business re-engineering, change management, knowledge management, systems integration, and systems development and implementation. Founded in 1970, AMS is headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, with over 8,000 employees and 57 offices worldwide. AMS had 1998 revenues of $1.1 billion. AMS can be found on the World Wide Web at [http://www.amsinc.com][1].

About Affinity

Affinity’s technology enables financial institutions to link their dealers, branches, call centers, and Internet customers electronically to their credit departments, providing fully automated lending — and, if necessary, connectivity to a loan officer — through every channel. For financial institutions, Affinity’s solutions expedite loan decisioning and processing and increase productivity and capacity of branch personnel, call center agents, loan officers, and indirect agents, while improving the overall customer experience. Affinity is located on the World Wide Web at [http://www.affi.net][2]. decisioning.com’s web site is located at [http://www.decisioning.com][3].

Forward-looking statements in this news release, including statements regarding the scope of Affinity’s patent covering fully automated lending systems, the agreement between Affinity/decisioning.com and AMS, and potential revenues to Affinity/decisioning.com under that agreement are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Investors are cautioned that forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including those related to general economic conditions, delays, risks and uncertainties associated with the development and deployment of new technologies, consumer and industry acceptance of automated delivery channels, and regulatory risks, that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected.

[1]: http://www.amsinc.com/
[2]: http://www.affi.net/
[3]: http://www.decisioning.com/

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MBNA & Angels Extend

MBNA America Bank, N.A. announced last week that the Anaheim Angels have extended their endorsement of MBNA’s credit card products. The extension continues a program that was started in 1994.

MBNA now has the endorsement of 17 Major League Baseball teams and is the Official Credit Card Issuer of Major League Baseball. Nearly 900,000 MBNA Customers carry a credit card endorsed by Major League Baseball or one of its teams.

More than 550 sports organizations endorse MBNA products and their members have $5 billion in loan balances. These endorsements include Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR).

MBNA Corporation (NYSE: KRB), a bank holding company and parent of MBNA America Bank, N.A., a national bank, has $64.5 billion in managed loans. MBNA, the largest independent credit card lender in the world, also provides retail deposit, consumer loan, and insurance products.

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Coinstar up 74%

Coinstar Inc., a retail-based coin counting and e-services company, announced last week record results for the second quarter ended June 30, 1999.

Coinstar reported record revenue of $18.3 million for the second quarter of 1999, an increase of 74% from $10.5 million for the same period of 1998. For the first six months of 1999, the Company reported revenue of $34.0 million, up 76% from $19.3 million reported for the same period of last year. The significant growth in revenue was primarily the result of increased customer use of Coinstar’s coin processing units, continued expansion of Coinstar’s network and an increase in its service fee.

For the second quarter of 1999, Coinstar’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was a record $3.3 million or 18% of revenue, up $4.9 million from a loss of $1.6 million for the second quarter of 1998, and up 48% from $2.2 million or 14% of revenue in the previous quarter. The significant improvement in EBITDA was primarily the result of increased revenue and continued improvement in operating leverage and efficiencies gained from investments made in the Coinstar network and back office infrastructure.

For the three months ended June 30, 1999, the Company achieved a record direct contribution of $9.1 million or 50% of revenue, up 112% from $4.3 million or 41% of revenue for the second quarter of 1998. The growth in direct contribution, defined as revenue less direct operating expenses, can be primarily attributed to increased revenue as well as continued improvements in Coinstar’s operating leverage.

The Company’s positive EBITDA was offset by non-cash items such as depreciation, amortization and interest expense. For the second quarter of 1999, the net loss was $4.1 million or $0.26 per share, compared to a net loss of $6.9 million or $0.46 per share for the same period a year ago. For the first six months of 1999, the net loss was $8.7 million or $0.56 per share, compared to a loss of $14.4 million or $0.95 per share for the same period of last year.

During the second quarter, the Company installed 547 units, an all-time record, resulting in 5,788 units in operation as of June 30, 1999, a 44% increase compared to 4,032 units in operation at the end of the second quarter of 1998. For the three months ended June 30, 1999 the Coinstar network processed coins worth a total of $205 million, up from $139 million in the same period of 1998. To date, the network has processed approximately $1.5 billion.

Coinstar expanded its network into a record 8 new regional markets during the second quarter, resulting in a presence in 72 regional markets, up from 49 at the end of the second quarter of 1998. This expansion added 8 new retail distribution partners, bringing the total to 157 partners at the end of June, 1999. The Company’s expansion included new installations in Safeway stores in Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia, Albertson’s stores in Nevada and Washington and Ahold, USA’s Giant Food’s stores in Pennsylvania.

“We are very pleased with our strong growth and operating performance for the second quarter of 1999,” said Jens Molbak, CEO of Coinstar, Inc. “Revenue growth continues to exceed the growth of installed units and our EBITDA and direct contribution are growing even faster. During the quarter, we recorded our 50 millionth customer transaction and recently announced that our 1998 coin processing volumes surpassed the US Mint production, making Coinstar the leading supplier of coin to the U.S. economy.”

“In June we successfully completed a 4,000,000 share offering of common stock at $22.375 per share. In July, an additional 466,400 shares were issued to cover the over-allotment option. The $94.2 million in net proceeds will be used for working capital, capital expenditures and other general corporate purposes to continue the growth and expansion of our business.”

“In addition to growing our core business, we continue to make judicious investments in future growth opportunities. One such opportunity, our Coinstar Shopper(tm) service, represents an integrated package of convenience-orientated services including internet-based meal planning designed to add value to frequent shopper programs and to help our retail partners ‘turn web traffic into store traffic'(tm).”

Coinstar Inc. and its subsidiaries provide consumers and retailers with value-added services that increase customer loyalty and retailer profitability. The Coinstar network currently delivers the company’s self-service coin counting product to more than 5,900 leading supermarkets in 38 states, the District of Columbia, the United Kingdom and Canada. The company’s new Coinstar Shopper(tm) product is designed to bridge the gap between the Internet and the store. Coinstar has over 300 full-time employees and is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. Consumers can call 1-800-928-CASH, or visit http://www.coinstar.com for the location of the nearest Coinstar machine.

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eCharge Management

Seattle-based eCHARGE Corp. announced this morning that Mark Tremont has been appointed CFO and Linda Weber has been appointed VP of credit and prepay products business. Tremont joins eCHARGE from VISA where he was EVP of finance. Weber, formerly SVP at CoreStates Financial Corp. where she developed the Internet and e-commerce group, comes to eCHARGE from American Management Systems where she co-founded the ecustomer business unit. eCHARGE offers next generation payment solutions to Internet merchants, telephone companies and Internet Service Providers worldwide.

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Heartland – 2Q/99

Mid-level issuers in the nation’s heartland are generally doing more with less according to the latest data collected by CardData (www.carddata.com) and posted this morning. Associated Card Services has 600 fewer accounts this year but posted a 17.7% increase in year-to-date charge volume compared to last year and a 2% boost in receivables. Intrust has 1,200 fewer accounts since last year but posted a 9% increase in YTD charge volume and a slight increase in receivables. Mercantile’s account base has declined by 85,000 accounts since June 30, 1998 but still posted a 5% gain in YTD volume. Bucking the trend is First Commerce Bankshares which posted strong gains over the past year as its account base has grown by 8,873 accounts resulting in a 35% annual gain in year-to-date volume and a 17% annual increase in receivables. Commerce Bank’s account base has also expanded, by 26,000 accounts, however receivables declined about 5%, while charge volume grew 8%. For quarterly details on more than 300 top U.S. card issuers visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1]).

ISSUER (STATE) 2Q/99 RECV 99YTD VOL 2Q/99 ACCTS
Mercantile (MO) $636,336,890 $402,113,806 433,808
Commerce Bank (MO) $498,030,351 $584,639,218 613,411
Associated Card (WI) $408,614,876 $280,835,502 332,110
Intrust Bank (KS) $151,938,519 $152,480,412 143,720
Frst Commerce (NE) $202,566,175 $360,611,432 183,063

Source: CardData (www.carddata.com)

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

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Getting Better

Charge-offs and delinquency collapsed during the June collection period according to new data released this morning by Fitch IBCA. Charge-offs, among credit card-backed bonds, dropped sharply during June to bring charge-offs to the lowest level in more than two and one-half years. Charge-offs now stand at 5.75%, 20 bps below last month’s figure and nearly 100bps lower than last June.

Meanwhile 60+ day delinquency dropped to its lowest level in nearly three years. For June 1999, delinquency was 2.95% compared to 3.17% for June 1998. Fitch says consumers are continuing to spend and charge at unprecedented rates . . . they’re brimming with confidence from rising stock market and real estate values coupled with the current employment and income trends. Although, rising interest rates could dry up some of the cash stream coming from mortgage refinancings and home equity products and result in a slightly downward trend later in the year. Fitch IBCA tracks about $202 billion in asset-backed card securities.

CREDIT CARD SECURITIZATION PERFORMANCE

Period CO GY MP DL SP
Jun99 5.75% 18.86% 16.44% 2.95% 5.63%
May99 5.95% 19.71% 16.36% 3.03% 6.04%
Apr99 5.91% 18.65% 15.96% 3.02% 5.64%
Mar99 5.94% 20.24% 16.87% 3.14% 5.92%
Feb99 6.05% 19.49% 15.44% 3.25% 5.69%
Jan99 6.10% 19.23% 15.82% 3.28% 5.37%
Jun98 6.72% 19.10% 15.34% 3.17% 4.14%

CO-chargeoffs; GY-gross yield; MP-monthly payment rate; DL- 60+ day
delinquency rate; SP-3-month excess spread
Source: Fitch IBCA

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Datacard & Indigo

Datacard Worldwide and Netherlands-based Indigo signed an agreement Thursday that establishes Datacard Worldwide as the exclusive global distributor for the Indigo ‘CardPress’, a full-color, digital press used to print plastic cards. Under the agreement, Datacard will provide global sales and service for the plastic card printing system and its supplies. In addition to worldwide distribution of the ‘CardPress’, the joint venture agreement provides for the companies to jointly develop future card manufacturing and card personalization products. The ‘CardPress’ expands Datacard’s industry-leading portfolio of card issuance solutions. Datacard Worldwide offers inline systems for high-volume and low-volume card personalization, laser engraving, card delivery, smart card embedding and personalization.

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Global Revenues Up 26%

Global Payment Technologies, Inc. , a leading manufacturer and innovator of currency acceptance systems used in the worldwide gaming, beverage, and vending industries, Thursday announced its fiscal 1999 third-quarter results.

Steve Katz, GPT Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, “Our third-quarter and nine-month results show healthy growth over the prior-year periods, and serve as further evidence of our successful penetration of the worldwide gaming market. As we announced in late June, we expect 1999’s results will be ahead of 1998, but below the Company’s stated goals, due principally to a temporary softness in the Australian gaming market. We still anticipate revenues for the full year will be approximately 15% ahead of 1998, and now believe our E.P.S. numbers will be above our June estimate. Therefore, while the fiscal third quarter results are strong, the fourth quarter will be negatively affected by the short-term slowdown. However, we expect overall production and shipments in the fourth calendar quarter of 1999, our first quarter in fiscal 2000, to return to levels achieved earlier in the year.”

“Along those lines,” Katz added, “we look to the year 2000 and beyond with enthusiasm as we believe there are numerous opportunities for GPT’s products, specifically in the retail and beverage and vending markets. The Abacus product for the retail market is progressing on schedule. The same retailer who conducted the product’s initial field trial is preparing for a 10-store deployment which is expected to begin at the end of August. Additionally, Abacus Financial Management Systems, Ltd. is in discussions with other retailers who have expressed interest in the product.”

Global Payment Technologies, Inc. is a United States-based designer, manufacturer, and marketer of automated currency acceptance and validation systems used to receive and authenticate currencies in a variety of payment applications worldwide. GPT’s proprietary and patented technologies are among the most advanced in the industry. For complete financials visit CardData ([www.carddata.com][1])

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

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FT Signs MeriStar

First Tennessee Merchant Services Inc. will process credit card transactions for MeriStar Hotels & Resorts under an exclusive new three-year agreement. MeriStar Hotels & Resorts Inc. is the nation’s largest, independent, multi-brand hotel operating company with more than 215 hotels and resorts in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. Among the national brands represented in MeriStar’s portfolio are Hilton, Sheraton, Westin, Marriott, Embassy Suites and Doubletree.

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Concord Signs Chicago B&T

Chicagoland Bridgeview Bank & Trust has selected Concord EFS, Inc. to provide processing services for their merchant acquirer business beginning early next year. The exclusive multi-year processing agreement calls for Concord to provide accounting, settlement and reporting services for over 14,000 Bridgeview B&T merchant clients. Historically, Concord has marketed back-end processing services directly to merchants, or via an agent bank program offered through its own merchant bank, EFS National Bank. The agreement with Bridgeview signals a new focus on providing processing services to large principal merchant banks as well as smaller agent banks. Bridgeview B&T is adding new merchants at a rate of 600-800 per month.

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eCard and Flowers USA

Last month Flowers USA was chosen to participate in the First USA eCard television advertising campaign. The 15, 60 and 120 second television spots will be running on ten national cable stations between the 16th and 30th of August 1999. The 60 radio spots will be running in national markets during the same time period.

The eCard Platinum Visa from First USA is a first — all the convenience, value and benefits of a traditional First USA Platinum Visa credit card plus 5% cash back for all purchases made from select online merchants, including Flowers USA. For additional information visit [http://www.firstusa.com][1].

Building and maintaining a relationship by accommodating the largest credit card issuer in the world is very important to Flowers USA. In a recent letter to Flowers USA regarding the campaign, Matthew Kovacevich, Producer, Transaction Information System stated “Thank you for the quick response to the request we made for graphics. Without your help our project would have never gotten off the ground.”

Flowers USA continues to be one of the fastest growing floral companies with commitments to providing the best customer service and top-notch quality products. “Meeting these commitments requires tough standards, good people, and constant attention to each individual customer,” stated Dave Adams, CEO of Flowers USA.

About Flowers USA

Flowers USA ([http://www.FlowersUSA.com][2]), is located in Centerbrook, CT, and is the largest privately held floral company in the United States. Specializing in flowers and gifts for all occasions and events, Flowers USA is dedicated to providing high quality products with unparalleled customer service. Flowers USA offers 24-hour ordering capabilities both, offline at 800-225-3232 and online at [http://www.FlowersUSA.com][3]. Flowers USA plans to continue its success and strengthen brand image both on and offline through marketing channels in banks, agencies, alliances, corporate discount programs and other related promotional efforts.

[1]: http://www.firstusa.com/
[2]: http://www.flowersusa.com/
[3]: http://www.flowersusa.com/

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