ETM Entertainment Network and ICON Software announced Tuesday that they will form the first entity to offer both live entertainment and movie ticketing to consumers over the Internet and other automated channels of distribution. ETM and ICON will enable consumers to purchase movie tickets through ETM’s network including an e-commerce website,, ETM Ticket Machines, an interactive voice response phone system and live operator call center. ETM also announced Tuesday it has partnered with Safeway to operate 28 ETM ticket kiosks in Safeway stores located in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.



Ordering items, like PCs, office chairs, and pens is becoming simpler for employees at Visa International Inc., San Francisco.

With the help of Core Technology Group, the international financial services company is deploying Aribas’ Operating Resource Management System (ORMS), a purchasing system that automates the requisition cycle by linking employees to suppliers’ through electronic commerce.

To date, electronic commerce has had a business-to-consumer emphasis but business-to-business tools may have more of a long-term impact because they can significantly lower operating costs, improve employee productivity, and help companies stay in business. A 5% reduction of purchasing costs can result in a 20% or more increase in profit margins (Killen & Associates).

Because such systems only recently became available, few organizations are using them. Visa has been at the market’s forefront and examined deploying an ORMS in the summer of 1997. Because use of its existing system was limited to only purchasing department and certain cost center management approvals, the ordering process was time consuming and information could be misplaced as it worked its way through the approval chain. A Web based electronic commerce system would enable the company to reduce the costs associated with procurements.

The Ariba software was a good fit because it focuses on automating the ordering of non-production goods and services that businesses need to run their day-to-day operations, such as capital equipment, software, and travel and entertainment expenses. Although these operating resources often account for more than 30 percent of company spending, they are typically managed through paper-based processes, providing few opportunities for automation, control, and leverage.

Once it made a decision to purchase the Ariba software, Visa needed help deploying it. The company selected Core because of its experience with the ORMS software.

In June 1998, Visa began linking the Ariba software, which runs on Windows NT and SQL Server, to its purchasing system. Core was charged with requirements definition and business process design, supplier alignment, and quality assurance.

In addition, the company worked to set-up electronic accounts with key suppliers so Visa would no longer have to deal with paper checks. By November, the financial company began rolling out the new system and currently 1,100 employees have access. The initial results have been positive, and the company expects to have 4,000 employees working with the system by summer.

Established in 1985, Core Technology Group specializes in bringing modern business systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning, Operations Resource Planning Systems, and E-Commerce Systems, to major companies with both local and global operations. Core has recently performed implementations at companies, such as Plantronics, Specialized Bike, Onsale, VISA, Aurora Biosciences, Cisco Systems, and Novell.

Core’s dedicated team of professionals has compiled a superior track record of quality service, timely responsiveness and teamwork for hundreds of customers.

For further information about Core Technology Group, please visit the web site [][1] or call 888/999-CORE. Core is headquartered in Los Gatos, Calif.



CheckFree & Mobius

CheckFree Holdings Corporation Tuesday announced that its Investment Services Division has acquired privately held Mobius Group, a leading provider of money manager databases and financial planning software to the financial services industry. CheckFree paid approximately $18 million in an all-stock transaction that closed today. The Mobius Group, which generated revenue of $6.6 million in 1998, will allow CheckFree Investment Services to offer the broadest suite of investment consulting services and products in the industry today. (CheckFree’s Electronic Commerce division continues to work with Mobius Management Systems, Inc. which is in no way related to the Mobius Group.)

The addition of the Mobius Group immediately broadens the range of services that CheckFree can provide brokers, investment consultants and asset managers. Investment consultants and asset managers will be able to use M-Vest to determine the ideal asset allocation, use M-Search to determine the ideal investment manager candidates, use CheckFree APL and APL Wrap products to provide the investment management platform and trading tools, and use either M-Watch or CheckFree APL for their investment oversight and reporting to the end client. Financial institutions offering managed account products can now go to one source for all of their analysis, oversight and reporting needs.

The M-Preps, Leonard and soon-to-be released M-Plan financial planning systems will allow CheckFree immediate entry into the financial planner marketplace, a segment of the financial services industry it has not previously served. Financial planning is an increasing part of services being provided to individual investors and these systems will further broaden the comprehensive product offerings.

“The addition of the Mobius Group is a clear fit with our two major strategic objectives of expanding services to our existing client base and moving our portfolio management and reporting services down market to financial planners, high net worth consumers and eventually all consumers,” said Frank Polashock, General Manager of CheckFree Investment Services. “We will continue to expand our product and service capabilities through development, partnerships and such strategic acquisitions as the Mobius Group, to meet and anticipate the needs of our growing client base.”

“Since the inception of the Mobius Group 10 years ago, we have had a vision of providing our clients with a complete suite of decision tools,” said Bob Padgette, president of the Mobius Group. “Until today we were missing a major part of that vision — portfolio accounting. With the merger of the Mobius Group into CheckFree Investment Services, this powerful combination will offer integrated, comprehensive products to our brokerage firm, money manager, consultant, plan sponsor, and financial planning clients, making us an integral part of their continued success.”

Bob Padgette, founder and CEO of the Mobius Group and the 70 employees of the company join CheckFree’s Investment Services division and will maintain the current facility in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The Mobius Group has more than 1,700 clients, including many of the world’s leading financial institutions.

“The transaction will provide strong return-on-investment for CheckFree, and excluding the effects of approximately $2.5 million of annual non-cash amortization, will be two cents accretive in 2000 and four cents accretive in 2001,” said Jim Douglass, Executive Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions. “Nonetheless, because our repurchase of 4.7 million shares last fall precludes us from applying the pooling method of accounting for this acquisition, the Company will be required to record the amortization for GAAP reporting purposes, resulting in one cent of earnings per share dilution in the fourth quarter and two cents in fiscal 2000. Thereafter, the deal is expected to be accretive,” added Douglass. The Company also expects to record a charge in the third quarter of fiscal 1999 for in process research and development and other costs associated with the transaction.

About CheckFree

Founded in 1981, CheckFree ([][1]), the operating subsidiary of CheckFree Holdings Corporation, is the leading provider of financial electronic commerce services, software and related products for more than 2.6 million consumers, 1,000 businesses and 850 financial institutions. CheckFree designs, develops and markets services that enable its customers to make electronic payments and collections, automate paper-based recurring financial transactions and conduct secure transactions on the Internet.

CheckFree Investment Services offers CheckFree APL and CheckFree APL WRAP, which include portfolio accounting, performance measurement, trading and reporting services to financial institutions. CheckFree APL and CheckFree APL WRAP are currently used by more than 225 institutions managing over 600,000 portfolios totaling more than $400 billion in assets.



NBS Acquires C&D

NBS Technologies Inc announced the acquisition of C&D Data Technologies of Toronto, a leading developer of wireless solutions for processing credit and debit transactions in a mobile environment.

NBS is a leading supplier of integrated POS systems and software services in Canada. As part of the Company’s expansion strategy it will be using this technology in a new cellular, handheld, wireless payment terminal for the Canadian, US and South American Markets.

“The C&D wireless technology is state of the art in terms of compact ergonomic design, the use of high performance radio modems compatible with major network providers and enhanced power management features all offered in an extremely cost effective package. We expect to bring this very competitive product to market in the next few months by teaming with financial institutions and service providers,” Ken Kivenko, President and CEO said.

“Increased usage of credit and debit cards combined with the need for an effective mobile terminal and rapidly decreasing cost of airtime from network providers, will allow NBS to use this new technology to not only provide a new revenue stream but to pull through the existing line of competitive POS systems to new markets. Through this acquisition, NBS intends to be recognized as the ‘provider of choice’ in the mobile, cellular, handheld payment terminal marketplace,” Neil Hudd, President of NBS Transaction Systems business unit stated.

Mobile payment authorization systems open up large new markets for more effective wireless transactions over nationwide networks including, but not limited to, taxis, limousines, delivery services, special events, kiosk and all portable sales outlets. Portable wireless capability is a key element in the progress of electronic commerce and in some parts of the world, the only viable alternative. NBS plans to expand the product line over time by offering smart card options and several new wireless technology features in the Americas and ultimately globally.

The market potential for mobile payment authorization systems in the Americas is considerable. The current installed base of wired transaction terminals exceeds 8 million units. The Company believes that as wireless communication costs continue to decline, the use of mobile transaction authorization systems will expand, both for new applications and through the conversion of the wired installation base, due to greater flexibility, processing speed and security.

NBS Technologies Inc. is a multinational company that designs, manufactures and markets an integrated line of card, card issuance, identification and point-of-sale products, services and software. Customers, who cover a wide range of market segments and applications, include financial institutions, retailers, government agencies, and healthcare organizations. The Company is a Toronto-based public company that sells to customers in over 85 countries through facilities located in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.


Sears Settlement

After recently shelling-out $475 million in restitution for illegal reaffirmation agreements with bankrupt cardholders and, last month, a $60 million criminal fine for defrauding bankruptcy debtors nationwide, Sears, Roebuck and Co. settled yet another lawsuit Tuesday afternoon for $36 million in cash. Yesterday’s agreement involved a class action lawsuit stemming from an increase in the APR assessed on certain balances of some Sears credit customers.The action was brought on behalf Sears cardholders who had outstanding balances when their accounts were transferred to Sears National Bank from 1994 through 1996, and who had not fully paid off those balances as of the effective dates of an April 1997 ‘Notice of Change in Credit Terms’. The plaintiffs’ principal claim in the litigation was that earlier notices to account holders included a commitment not to increase the rate on the pre-transfer balances. Sears says the change in credit terms was proper but that some account holders may have misunderstood. Terms of Tuesday’s settlement include Sears paying approximately $36 million in cash and $35 million in coupons to approximately 3 million customers whose APR on pre-existing balances was increased as a result of the 1997 change in credit terms. The settlement agreement also calls for Sears to send additional coupons, each with a face value of $7.50, to all 11 million class members.


NJ Taxes Carded

Beginning March 1, the state of New Jersey taxpayers can pay their 1998 state income tax with their credit cards by calling 888/2PAY-TAX. Credit card payments are now available under an agreement between U S Audiotex LLC, an affiliate of Los Angeles-based Imperial Bancorp, and the state of New Jersey.

“We’re obviously delighted to have been selected by the state to participate in such an innovative program,” stated Kenneth Stern, president and founder of U S Audiotex. “Many taxpayers welcome the opportunity to pay their state income tax along with their federal income tax by credit card.

“The convenience and flexibility that are inherent with credit cards coupled with the ease of use and accessibility of 888/2PAY-TAX provide the taxpayer with a viable payment alternative to checks or money orders. U S Audiotex sees the state benefiting from the paperless nature of credit card payments. Also, by accepting credit cards, the state is providing the taxpayer with a convenient payment option,” added Stern.

New Jersey taxpayers, using a touchtone telephone, dial 888/2PAY-TAX and are connected to the U S Audiotex Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System. This computer system prompts the taxpayer (using the numeric keys on the touchtone phone) to select “state of New Jersey Income Tax.” The system then prompts for information including the Social Security Number and the amount of payment.

The computer computes the convenience fee and obtains the taxpayer’s approval prior to the taxpayer entering credit card information. The U S Audiotex IVR System performs an online authorization to verify credit and, upon credit verification, provides the caller with a confirmation number that the payment has been authorized by the credit card issuer.

Only the taxpayer’s Social Security Number and payment data are transmitted by U S Audiotex to the state. Funds are electronically transferred to the state’s bank account. Confidential credit card information is not forwarded to the state.

“We’re pleased with the agreement between our affiliate, U S Audiotex, and the state of New Jersey,” stated George L. Graziadio, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Imperial Bancorp.

“U S Audiotex has successfully been assisting hundreds of governmental agencies around the country through its one-of-a-kind Interactive Voice Response System. This agreement exemplifies Imperial’s style of business, which is to provide innovative financial services and products to our customers,” added Graziadio.

U S Audiotex charges a convenience fee to taxpayers who pay their state and/or federal income tax through this program. The fees charged are very competitive to other credit vehicles.

“A substantial number of our customers find our fees are outweighed by the credit card benefits of air miles, cash back bonus awards or product purchase credits,” said Stern. U S Audiotex fees pay all processing and telecommunications costs in providing this service for taxpayers.

All taxpayers, regardless of the filing form (electronic, paper, through tax preparation services or software programs), may use their MasterCard, American Express or Discover Card through 888/2PAY-TAX. The U S Audiotex system is available to taxpayers seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

U S Audiotex, a closely held San Ramon-based company, was founded in 1986. It currently processes credit card payments for about 300 counties and cities throughout the country. In addition, U S Audiotex processes credit card payments for the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board.

For more information about U S Audiotex and the state of New Jersey credit card acceptance program, visit U S Audiotex’s Web site at [][1].

Imperial Bancorp, a diversified financial organization, was founded in 1968. Imperial Bank, the principal subsidiary organized in 1963, serves mid-sized businesses by offering a wide range of financial services tailored to corporate customers, entrepreneurs, and professionals nationwide. Imperial can be found on the Web at [][2].



Credit Insurance Slammed

Consumers Union charged yesterday that Americans are being overcharged to the tune of $2 billion per year for credit insurance associated with credit cards, car loans and personal loans. The group said state insurance regulators were to blame due to their poor oversight of credit insurance sales. Most insurance packages on bank credit cards charge approximately 59 cents per $100 of credit card balance per month. A $4,000 average credit card balance will incur an average annual insurance premium of $284 per year. However, the actual rates and coverage vary by state regulations. Most card insurance programs cover life, disability and involuntary unemployment. In response to CU’s charges, the Consumer Credit Insurance Association said that consumers choose credit insurance products because they understand the value of the insurance and make a voluntary choice to purchase it when they borrow. The CCIA also said the methodology of the CU report is flawed because it lumps all forms of credit insurance into one analysis and lacks basic business understanding of distribution costs. The CCIA said the report clings to discredited assertions concerning marketing practices that ignore the fundamental fact that consumers must, by law and regulation, as well as market conduct expectations, receive notice they have the option to say yes or no to credit insurance.



CA-based PaymentNet released ‘SoftTerminal’ yesterday, the first Internet-based solution for real-time processing of Level II corporate purchase cards. Because ‘SoftTerminal’ is Web-based, it can be replicated by merchants at multiple physical locations for no additional cost. Also, software upgrades are handled on the ‘Soft Terminal’ server, rather than deployed via costly physical media and field upgraded either by the user or by a field representative. The ‘SoftTerminal’ service will be resold initially by First Data Merchant Services Corporation. ‘SoftTerminal’ has also been endorsed by VISA USA’s Commercial Commerce Division.


Cyberflex Access Ships

Schlumberger has begun shipping Cyberflex Access, a new smart card based on Java technology that combines multiple application capabilities with built-in cryptographic services. Cyberflex Access provides information security services — digital signature, authentication and authorization — along with application security features, such as secure remote Java Card applet loading using digital signatures.

As the world’s first commercially available card with this combination of features, Cyberflex Access complies with the current Java Card API 2.0 specification from Sun Microsystems, Inc., and the primary features of the new Java Card API 2.1 specification. In addition, it is backward compatible with the most recent Java-based smart card from Schlumberger, the industry-leading Cyberflex Open 16K card.

“Cyberflex Access is the smart card that IT professionals have been awaiting,” said Tom Lebsack, director, Multiple Applications, North America, Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals. “Cyberflex Access continues the pioneering work of Schlumberger in the Java card field, delivering the power of smart card technology in an open, user-programmable form to help customers cut both cost and time-to-market.”

“The new Schlumberger smart card product utilizing Java technology is a milestone in the deployment of the platform,” said Patrice Peyret, director, Consumer & Embedded, Sun Microsystems. “The combined benefits of public-key based authentication services with Java programmability are perfect for all networked based services. The Information Technology world has been eagerly awaiting such a product.”

“The pioneering work that Schlumberger has accomplished with Java Card has attracted the attention of software companies worldwide, especially those that are leading the way in the high-growth mobile and embedded applications markets,” stated Greg Jones, director of Mobile and Embedded Products for Pervasive Software, a leading provider of information management solutions. “Cyberflex Access will allow companies to easily develop and implement solutions to facilitate Internet commerce and intranet business initiatives where security of information and transactions are critical.”

The Cyberflex Access smart card enables issuers and developers to implement smart card-based programs with Java technology in environments which require information security features based on strong cryptography. The card is ideal for corporate, government, IT and health care applications. Additionally, the card’s optional internal cryptographic functions bring security in applet downloading, ensuring that only properly signed applets are allowed onto a card.

Cyberflex Access features 16 Kbytes of EEPROM memory, enough to store several Java smart card programs or Cardlets(TM), a comprehensive cryptographic library including RSA, DES and triple DES functions and a SHA-1 hashing algorithm. The on-board library and computational power combined with Java programmability hold the key to the card’s versatility. This enables developers to secure transactions via digital signature and authentication services, utilizing the optimal tool to suit the nature of the network and the risks involved.

As with previous Schlumberger Java cards, Cyberflex Access is supported by the Cyberflex Development Kit with its powerful utilities for developing, testing and loading programs onto Cyberflex. The Cyberflex Development Kit works in conjunction with standard Java development tools such as Microsoft’s Visual J++, Sun’s JDK and Symantec Cafe. Cyberflex Access is also PC/SC compliant. An added benefit to developers is the ability to access the Schlumberger Cyberflex User’s Forum, the most unique and effective support mechanism in the Java card world, at ().

Java-based smart cards are the ideal platform for allowing applications from one or more providers to securely reside side-by-side on the same smart card. Multiple application cards provide convenience for users and differentiated, market-specific products for issuers. As the first and most advanced Java card product, Cyberflex continues to lead the industry. Its indispensable features will help realize the vision of widespread smart card usage. Additional information is available at ().

About Schlumberger

Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals is the leading provider of smart card-based solutions worldwide, shaping the new world of smart solutions by providing leading-edge technology to enable innovative smart card and terminal applications that enhance the security and convenience of businesses and communities of all kinds. Schlumberger smart card solutions encompass a wide range of cards, terminals, development tools and support in open configurations for operators, developers, integrators and distributors worldwide. As part of the Smart Village(R) vision, the Schlumberger offer includes the milestone Cyberflex(TM) card, the industry’s first Java(TM)-based smart card. The Smart Cards & Terminals group operates 45 facilities in 34 countries across the globe. Additional information is available on the World Wide Web at ( cards).

Schlumberger Test & Transactions is the parent division for Schlumberger Smart Cards & Terminals and Schlumberger Automated Test Equipment, leveraging the combined strengths of the two business units to provide leading-edge, cost-effective solutions to customers.

Schlumberger Test & Transactions is a business unit of Schlumberger Limited, a $11.8 billion global technology service company providing oilfield services, natural resources management, transactions-based technology and associated systems, and semiconductor test equipment.


Frontier Lawsuit

Miami-based Blackstone Calling Card Inc., was awarded a $5.7 million judgment in its lawsuit against Frontier Communications Services Inc. and Frontier Communications International Inc.. Frontier was also ordered to pay Blackstone more than $26,000 in administrative fees Blackstone had paid to the American Arbitration Association. The claim was based on the negligent hiring and negligent supervision of a Frontier a senior sales representative.


Internet Acquiring Boom

First Annapolis Consulting reported yesterday that 74% of processors and acquirers intend to increase their Internet acquiring and processing services in the foreseeable future. Currently 80% of players are processing Internet transactions and also processing Internet-only merchants. Two major concerns voiced by acquirers in the survey were fraud and viability of Internet merchants. Although 88% of the acquirers surveyed have not experienced increases in fraud, the concern exists due to the fear that fraud levels will increase as firms handle more Internet transactions. Acquirers feel the possibility of fraud certainly exists given the card-not-present nature of the business, the anonymity of merchants, and the possible change of merchandise mix. The low cost of entry and low capitalization requirements of Internet merchants add additional risk for acquirers, according to some of the respondents. Sixty-three percent of the participants in the First Annapolis survey rank among the top 50 merchant acquirers in the US.