Wards Bankruptcy

Montgomery Ward & Co. said Monday it will emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid 1999 as a result of an agreement reached with Wards’ Creditors’ Committee. As a first step in the agreement, GE Capital, a major creditor, is to acquire The Signature Group, the profitable direct marketing arm of Wards which was not part of the retailer’s general bankruptcy filing.  Wards will then place a sum in a fund to settle court-approved pre-bankruptcy unsecured claims of creditors other than GE Capital.  GE Capital and Wards management will receive the equity in the reorganized retailer. In the last 18 months, Wards closed more than 100 under-performing stores.


CoinBank to Military

Cash Technologies, Inc. announced Monday that its wholly owned subsidiary, CoinBank Automated Systems, Inc., has signed an agreement with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to install its CoinBank advanced coin deposit machines at selected U.S. Army and Air Forcebases. AAFES is the agency responsible for the purchase and sale of consumer merchandise and services for all United States Army and Air Force bases around the world, and operates more than 1400 retail facilities in all 50 states and 25 countries.

“This contract demonstrates the value of integrating CoinBank’s e-commerce technology into its coin counting machines,” said Cash Technologies Chairman and CEO Bruce Korman. “In addition to offering U.S. soldiers, airmen and their families the first convenient method to dispose of loose coin, AAFES is the largest purchaser of prepaid phone cards in the world and can benefit from CoinBank’s ability to electronically issue and dispense phone cards. This capability provided CoinBank with a key advantage in the fierce competition for this award.”

There are a number of military bases in the U.S. that could be described as virtual cities, with their own ordinances, schools, retail stores and populations exceeding 100,000 military and civilian residents, providing potential opportunities for multiple CoinBank(R) installations at each base. Following these initial installations, the Company anticipates extending the scope of the agreement throughout the AAFES system.

Cash Technologies, Inc. develops and markets innovative e-commerce kiosks, including advanced self-service coin counters and the multi-function ATM-X(TM) automated teller machine.The Company also provides computerized cash processing services to banks, armored carriers, rapid transit agencies and other cash-intensive businesses.


DOJ – Citicorp

The Department of Justice agreed Monday to dismiss its suit seeking to block Citicorp Service Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Transactive Corporation’s EBT system business, now that Citicorp is abandoning the deal. The decision follows the decision by Citicorp to terminate its agreement with GTECH, Transactive’s parent company, to acquire the EBT system business. The DOJ said the proposed acquisition would have substantially limited competition among EBT services vendors. Citicorp is the dominant provider of EBT services as the prime contractor with 29 states. Until the proposed acquisition agreement was announced, Transactive, headquartered in Austin, Texas, was Citicorp’s major competitor and was the prime contractor in 3 states. Last week Citicorp won the EBT contract for the State of Maryland.


Sub-Prime Twist

While most sub-prime issuers offering low-credit-limit cards levy high fees and/or high interest rates First National Bank of Marin has come up with the idea of a partially-secured VISA card. In solicitations mailed out this week to sub-prime prospects, FNBM is guaranteeing approval for a $300, $400 or $600 credit line. Upon issuance of the VISA card FNBM takes a $200 cash advance against the credit line and deposits it into a savings account. Applicants are required to send $40 towards the $99 enrollment fee when submitting the application. There is also an additional $35 enrollment fee if the applicant’s credit report shows derogatory information or a history of past charged off debt. The VISA card carries a 19.8% fixed APR and an annual fee of $72. The full solicitation is available via CardWatch ([www.cardwatch.com][1]).

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


Magic Moments

VISA reported yesterday there were 16,826 winners in the ‘Magic Moments’ holiday promotion. All together the winners were awarded free purchases totaling more than $1.2 million. Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, VISA randomly selected, each day, a one-second magic moment when VISA card purchases were free. The moment with the most transactions occurred on Dec. 8 with 1,332 transactions. The largest free purchase was made at an auto repair shop in Virginia for about $6,000. The smallest free VISA purchase was made at the U.S. Post Office for 32 cents. Other free VISA purchases included jewelry, college tuition and cruise tickets. VISA says member support was extensive with nearly 100 million statement stuffers distributed.


Double Points

American Express launched a nationwide promotion to award double points for spending at supermarkets and drug stores from now through April 30th. The promotion is open to U.S. cardholders who have cards enrolled in the ‘Membership Rewards’ program, or who have the ‘Delta SkyMiles Credit Card’, the ‘American Express Golf Card’, the ‘Hilton Optima Card’, the ‘New York Knicks Card’ or the ‘New York Rangers Card’. Supermarkets and drug stores nationwide, as well as several online stores such as Peapod, Netgrocer and mybasics, that accept the American Express Card, are participating in the promotion.



ST. Louis-based Retention Marketing Consulting Group announced that new clients to its ‘RADAR’ service, signing up before March 1, will receive the year 2000 free. Retention ‘RADAR’ is a service designed to help issuers gain insight into how competing card brands communicate with cardholders. The service offers a comprehensive probe into retention marketing strategies.


New DataCard Distributor

DataCard Corporation announced the addition of Toronto, Ontario-based Ahearn & Soper, Inc., as an authorized regional distributor of DataCard photo ID products. Ahearn & Soper is Canada’s oldest and largest value-added distributor of imaging, printing and bar code solutions for a variety of high-tech applications.

“Signing Ahearn & Soper represents a true milestone for DataCard product distribution,” said Elaine Bliss, vice president of Americas distribution for DataCard’s enterprise company. “It substantially increases our North American distribution coverage, and it elevates our product delivery capabilities to the next level for our resellers.”

The ImPrint Division of Ahearn & Soper will distribute DataCard’s new Select(TM) Class and Express(TM) Class ID card printers, as well as the DataCard(R) ID Express(TM) photo ID system and DataCard(R) QuikWorks(R) photo ID software.

According to Bliss, DataCard chose Ahearn & Soper as a distribution partner because of the company’s strong history of providing excellent service, and because its focus on product quality and customer satisfaction mirrors that of DataCard.

“Ahearn & Soper has been serving customers in the U.S. and Canada for more than 100 years, with an established track record of supporting only the best, most dependable and cost-effective products,” Bliss said. “This, coupled with a solid, proven distribution infrastructure, made Ahearn & Soper an easy choice for DataCard.”

Founded in 1881, Ahearn & Soper has evolved into a $40 million, solutions-oriented value-added distributor and systems integrator for a variety of graphics, data collection and factory automation applications. Ahearn & Soper’s ImPrint Division serves customers from 16 regional offices located throughout the U.S. and Canada. ([www.ahearn.com][1])

DataCard Corporation, a privately held company based in Minneapolis, Minn., provides customers around the world with fully integrated solutions for a variety of financial, identification and healthcare applications. In addition to turnkey solutions, the company offers complete lines of digital photo ID systems and printers, card personalization systems and transaction systems. ([www.datacard.com][2])

[1]: http://www.ahearn.com
[2]: http://www.datacard.com



Wakefield, MA-based New England Bankcard Association Inc. has chosen to renew its bankcard processing agreement with First Data Resources Inc. for an additional five years.  Under the agreement, First Data will provide credit, debit, commercial, and private label card processing services, as well as merchant processing services to NEBA through 2003. NEBA, which serves over 75 issuing and acquiring financial institutions and businesses, has been a First Data client since 1980.


CheckFree Software Head

CheckFree announced the addition of Michael Meriton as senior vice president of the Company, and president of Corporate Commerce Solutions, a unit of CheckFree’s Software Division.  He will be responsible for all elements of the CCS business and will report directly to CheckFree Software Division President Sean Feeney.

CheckFree’s CCS business unit provides a portfolio of leading-edge software targeted toward essential reconciliation and compliance operations of financial services and government institutions, corporations, retailers, and utilities worldwide.

Meriton brings to CheckFree more than 17 years of leadership in executive management and sales at ADP, ORACLE and Dun & Bradstreet Software (now part of Geac Corporation).  Most recently, he was the founder and general manager of JGI/BAAN, a mid-market systems integrator for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from Baan Corporation, one of the top five suppliers of ERP solutions.  This business, formed in early 1997, completed 1998 with more than 45 employees and contract revenues exceeding $15 million.

Meriton attributes JGI/Baan’s success to the concept of a “Software Reference Factory,” which focused all activities around creating highly referenceable customers.  Prior to this, Meriton led Dun & Bradstreet Software’s Northeast region to become the Company’s top revenue-producing region worldwide in 1996.  This achievement was based on targeting and winning contracts with leading firms in the financial services industry, including insurance, banking and brokerage firms.

“Mike Meriton is a proven software executive with a wealth of experience in the financial software industry, and is a strategic addition to our management team,” stated Feeney.

Meriton will work out of CheckFree’s CCS headquarters office in Owings Mills, Md.

About CheckFree

Founded in 1981, CheckFree (), 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 financial transactions on the Internet.


FDC 4Q/98

First Data Corp. reported Friday that fourth quarter revenues declined 2.2% due to recent divestiture activity. Card issuer services revenues also decreased in the fourth quarter by 2% to $380 million. FDC says the decline reflects the expected reduction in revenues from customer service and information management compared to the prior year. Volume trends remain strong with total accounts on file up 17% to 212 million, while active accounts increased 12%. For the year, card issuer revenues increased 6.2% to $1,434 million. Processing revenues increased 9%, while information services revenues declined 8%. Merchant processing services revenues were essentially flat for both the fourth quarter and the year at $389 million and $1,394 million, respectively. In merchant card processing in the quarter, dollar volume processed increased 11%. Operating profits declined 4% to $264 million.