In April Hypercom Corporation introduced the Optimum T4100 and Optimum M2100, two compact, high speed and high performance Optimum card payment terminals designed to speed transactions and boost profits for retail stores and mobile merchants throughout the US.
The countertop Optimum T4100 packs a powerful Intel processor based on IntelŽ XscaleŽ technology to deliver unprecedented, intelligently integrated multi-application performance and the industry's fastest transaction speeds.
The handheld, wireless Optimum M2100 based on 32-bit technology delivers performance and price-efficiency for mobile merchants such as restaurants, delivery services, car rental companies, stadiums, medical facilities and others who want to bring the payment system directly to the consumer.
Also in April, Hypercom announced that it has entered the dial and IP POS transaction network business with a new high-performance network called HBNet that gives processors a competitive alternative source for information delivery services. The network is already operational in Canada and, in its infancy, is already handling over 600 million transactions on an annual basis. That equals nearly 50% of all transaction traffic in that country, a percentage that is expected to jump significantly in the months ahead.
E-Chex recently announced a three year agreement with First National Bankcard, Inc. to provide E-Chex electronic check conversion through their extensive reseller channel.
Ryan Paine, President of First National Bankcard, states that one of the biggest reasons they chose E-Chex was that E-Chex did not require imagers to process checks. There is an enormous potential in the electronic check market today but imager requirements restrict a small merchant's ability to participate in the cost saving process.
STARŽ Systems, a First Data company, announced in April that it is the first company in the U.S. to develop and deploy advanced remote content management capabilities for ATMs.
The STAR service, which is already up and running at nearly 200 PNC ATMs deployed at Wawa stores and Thorntons Inc. stores, allows deployers to customize content and graphics on demand; install software upgrades or patches; distribute audio files and re-boot or shut down terminals, all from a single-server location. The service, which builds upon on-demand solutions from Computer Associates International, Inc. (CA), is also unique in being designed for compatibility with Windows-based machines made by any ATM manufacturer.
Visa and MasterCard are seeking to overturn a lower court ruling charging certain loyalty provisions violate anti-trust laws. As a result of that ruling, banks, most particularly MBNA America, are looking to issue American Express and Discover cards, an action they couldn't pursue previously.
In separate filings with the U.S. Supreme Court, the card associations asked the Supreme Court to review this case "in order to clarify the serious and important issues the decision raises about how all joint ventures are treated under the antitrust laws."
"We are asking the Supreme Court to review the decision, because it sets a precedent that casts doubt on the operations of many existing joint ventures, not just the MasterCard joint venture," said MasterCard General Counsel Noah J. Hanft.
"Visa is asking the court to reverse the trial court's ruling because we believe the district court erred on a fundamental point: our rule has provided value, not hampered it. American Express certainly has not been foreclosed from accessing either merchants or consumers," said Daniel Traman, Visa USA Vice President.
In a separate matter, while Visa and MasterCard have been very secretive about their interchange rates in the U.S., they have agreed to publish the interchange fees paid by Merchant Acquirers to card issuers on transcontinental transactions in Europe.
The retailing group EuroCommerce has applauded the move, but is still seeking lower interchange rates.
Global Payments Inc., Atlanta, Ga., recently introduced a new application for level II and III commercial card processing.
The new application, Purchasing @dvantage PC Plus, was developed for a wide range of business segments that use a Windows-based PC for their payment processing and accept both consumer and commercial payment cards. The application is designed to cost effectively serve retail, mail order/telephone order and e-Commerce merchants, and provides businesses with level II and III commercial card processing. Details for purchase card transactions such as purchase order and part numbers, item description, quantities, taxes, etc. are provided, in order to qualify the merchant for the lowest possible interchange rate.
The application offers optional IP VPN connectivity for increased transaction-processing speed and faster response. Dial-up connectivity is also fully supported.
NOVA Information Systems (NOVA), a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp, and Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank (ALCB), a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance & Leicester plc, recently signed a definitive agreement for the sale of Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank's Merchant Acquiring business to a UK-based affiliate of NOVA.
EuroConex Technologies Ltd., another affiliate of NOVA, will manage the processing services for all new and existing Alliance & Leicester merchant customers. Merchant processing services will continue to be marketed under the Alliance & Leicester brand. Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank currently provides processing services to over 27,000 merchants in the UK. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Evidence of an economic recovery didn't show up in Hypercom Corp.'s first quarter results.
The terminal marker reported a first quarter net loss of $2.2 million or 4 cents per fully diluted share, compared to a net loss before discontinued operations of $2.8 million or 6 cents per fully diluted share in the prior year.
However, the first quarter results did exceed prior year comparative revenue, gross margin and operating income before discontinued operations. In 2003, Hypercom reported a first quarter loss from continuing operations of $0.9 million and $2.8 million, respectively. The quarter over quarter improvement in results was achieved on increased consolidated net revenue of $50.8 million versus $49.8 million and reflected an improved gross margin of 41.9 percent versus 40 percent.
The Company closed the quarter with a sales backlog of $54.9 million, versus $57 million as of December 31, 2003, and $83.7 million as of March 31, 2003. Backlog fluctuates seasonally and due to the timing of new annual contracts with significant customers.
Certegy, Inc., the Alpharetta, Ga.-based card processor and check services company, had an outstanding first quarter, with diluted earnings per share of 32 cents on revenue of $263.4 million and operating income of $35.5 million.
Compared to the first quarter of 2003, Certegy's revenue increased 9.7 percent to $263.4 million; operating income increased $14.6 million to $35.5 million, net income increased $8.5 million to $20.7 million.
Ingenico, Atlanta, Ga., is integrating Certegy Check Services on Ingenico's "multi-app ready" suite of dial terminals. Included in the Certegy Check Services' offerings will be check warranty, check verification and electronic check conversion.
ClearCommerce Corp., Austin, Tex., recently introduced an infrastructure for Merchant Acquirers and merchants designed to ensure security compliance throughout the entire transaction processing chain. Hardened Commerce provides a platform that includes secure Web shopping carts, data transmission and fully certified gateway service.
Bankcard data compromises impacted an estimated 30 million card numbers in 2003, and are expected to double this year. In response to this growing problem, the card associations established security requirements for Acquiring institutions and their merchant customers. Visa Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) and MasterCard Site Data Protection Program (SDP) define strict standards of due care for securing cardholder data. In addition, the associations have made Acquiring banks responsible for the data security throughout the transaction processing chain, and have implemented significant financial penalties for non-compliance that go into effect in September 2004.
Hardened Commerce includes storefront applications that have been certified by ClearCommerce to ensure proper use, storage and transmission of card data and the fully CISP certified payment processing service, QuickStart. Additionally, Hardened Commerce bundles Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode payer authentication and ClearCommerce Risk Management, ClearCommerce's own suite of automated fraud prevention technologies.
The U.S. Supreme Court in April overturned a lower court ruling, allowing credit card issuers to categorize overlimit fees as "other charges." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court in Cincinanati had earlier ruled that these charges should be disclosed as finance charges under the rules of the Truth-in-Lending Act.
Regulation Z specifically excludes fees imposed for exceeding a credit limit (over-limit fees) from the definition of "finance charge," which the Court ruled is not a violation of the Truth-in-Lending Act's purpose of a "meaningful disclosure of credit terms."
The decision stemmed from a case in which a consumer had charged that Household Credit Services, Prospect Heights, Ill., and MBNA America Bank, Wilmington, Del., had violated the Truth-in-Lending Act by imposing a fee after she had exceeded her credit limit.
Morgan Stanley card-industry analyst, Kenneth Posner, expects further litigation against MasterCard and Visa following the settlement of the Wal-Mart suit and the separate Justice Department suit that forced the companies to drop the exclusionary rules that kept American Express from partnering with U.S. banks.
"In rendering it's verdict, the court described Visa and MasterCard as having 'market power' an unfortunate label that makes them vulnerable to greater antitrust authority going forward," Posner says in his report, "Attacking the Death Star."
Posner also says that a cost-based approach to interchange would be damaging to the U.S. card industry. When such an approach, in which interchange is based on "identifiable cost," was adopted in Australia, interchange rates fell by half to 0.55 percent of sales. U.S. rates are nearly triple that, according to the report.
TPI Software, LLC, Alpharetta, Ga., launched plug and play embedded hardware that can be integrated with other line of business applications such as CRM, accounting applications, PC cash registers systems as well as traditional payment terminals.
By providing a certified middleware device, TPI expects to enable business software applications as well as new IP terminals and legacy terminals to instantly connect to multiple payment processors.
MasterCard International's contactless payment initiative, PayPass, continues to build momentum. By the start of spring, the Orlando, Fla. market trial had 16,000 cardholders and nearly 60 merchant locations participating. MasterCard also recently began working with Nokia to incorporate PayPass into mobile phones in a pilot with Dallas, Tex., merchants.
In the Orlando pilot, consumers tap or wave their payment card on a specially equipped merchant terminal that then transmits payment details wirelessly.
In the Dallas pilot, consumers can tap or wave their phone to make payments simpler. Nokia has also developed a mobile commerce messaging platform to enable retailers to better serve and communicate to their customers.
The Nokia phone SmartCover is embedded with a contactless chip and a radio frequency circuit. The chip has been specially programmed with pre-registered MasterCard payment account information.
Speed and convenience top a long list of contactless payment benefits that appeal to consumers, merchants and issuers according to a new report from the Smart Card Alliance. Of particular interest to merchants and issuers is that these advantages translate into quantifiable business benefits.
The white paper reports that MasterCard PayPass cardholder transaction volumes increased 12% from the prior year at the PayPass trial merchants, and that American Express ExpressPay pilot results showed that customer average transaction size increased 20 to 30% compared to cash spending at participating merchants.
Lightbridge Inc. has expanded the capabilities of its Authorize.Net Internet Protocol Payment Gateway to support "card present" transactions generated by retail point-of-sale and mobile devices. With this development, Authorize.Net now processes high-speed payments in both card present and card not present environments via wired or wireless connections.
The Authorize.Net IP Payment Gateway employs 128-bit SSL security, delivering authorizations as quickly as two seconds and providing merchants with continuous connectivity to processors including FDMS, Nova, Global Payment Systems and Vital. Faster authorizations translate to faster check-out times, which lead to satisfied customers and improved merchant productivity. Products currently taking advantage of the Authorize.Net Card Present service include Hypercom's Optimum T4100 and Infinite Peripheral's MobileCharge.
Lightbridge recently partnered with Infinite Peripherals, a provider of handheld mobile devices to process credit card transactions initiated through a PDA or Smart Phone and Infinite Peripherals' hardware payment solution.
Lightbridge has also launched a new fraud detection suite designed to help merchants to recognize valid IP addresses as well as to block IP addresses known to be used for fraudulent activity. The suite also includes various filters to alert merchants to suspicious activity levels and dollar amounts.
Plug & Pay Technologies, Inc., Hauppauge, NY, recently formalized a referral partnership with Global Payments Inc, enabling Plug'n Pay to offer its Internet gateway and fraud protection services through Global's direct sales force, its agents and its ISO channel.
Infonox, Santa Clara, Calif., has added new capabilities to its Merchant Acquiring Software, TranSending System, including modules for commissions, transaction reporting, multi-location merchants, underwriting and Visa Cardholder Information Security Program compliance.
In May, Metavante Corp. announced it had agreed to purchase First Data's 64% interest in NYCE Corp. for approximately $610 million in cash., with the goal to close the deal by the end of the third quarter 2004.
The sale was prompted by First Data's December 03 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that in order to purchase Concord EFS Inc., which owns Star, the No.1 EFT network, First Data would then sell its interest in NYCE. The network provides financial institutions, retailers and independent ATM deployers with shared network services for ATMs, online debit point-of-sale and electronic benefits transfer transactions. NYCE 2003 net income was reported as $30.7 million on revenues of $143 million.
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