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   MasterCard and Visa adjusted their interchange rates again in April. In CPS/Retail ­All Other (formerly CPS/Retail Tier 2), the rate went to 1.54 percent of the sale, plus 10 cents per transaction, up from 1.43 percent, plus 10 cents.
   Visa also introduced four new credit interchange categories for card-present transactions at retailers and supermarkets, with merchants paying different rates depending on whether they qualify for Threshold I (at least 35 million transactions and $2 million in Visa volume in 2003), II (10 million transactions, $1 million Visa volume) or III (6 million transactions, $300 million Visa volume).
   The new Threshold 1 rate is 1.43 percent, plus 10 cents per transaction, up from 1.39 percent plus 10 cents per transaction. Supermarkets achieving Threshold I status pay 1.2 percent, up from 1.15 percent, plus five cents per transaction.
   Many other categories remain where they were before the April changes.
   MasterCard's Merit III rate, similar to Visa's CPS/Retail ­ All Other, has also gone up and still carries the same rate as a similar Visa transaction. Supermarket and warehouse rates are now 1.36 percent, up from 1.25 percent.
   TNS, Inc., a leading provider of business-critical, cost-effective, data communications services for transaction-oriented applications, announced in March, its initial public offering of 4,420,000 shares of common stock at a price of $18.00 per share.
   The shares are being offered by an underwriting group managed by JPMorgan Securities, Inc. and Lehman Brothers Inc. and co-managed by Credit Suisse First Boston LLC, William Blair & Company L.L.C., and SunTrust Capital Markets, Inc. TNS, Inc. has granted the underwriters an option to purchase an additional 663,000 shares of common stock to cover over-allotments. TNS, Inc.'s common stock will begin trading today on the NYSE under the symbol "TNS".
   Copies of the final prospectus relating to the offering may be obtained from JPMorgan Securities, Inc., Prospectus Department, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, Floor 5B, New York NY 10081, (212) 552-5164, or from Lehman Brothers Inc., c/o ADP Financial Services, Integrated Distribution Services, 1155 Long Island Avenue, Edgewood, NY 11717, (631) 254-7118.
   In March 2004, Target Corp. confirmed that it plans to phase out its smart card program over the next 12 months.
   The nation's No. 2 retailer issued a statement calling the Target Visa credit card "one of the most successful financial products ever introduced at Target, with more than 9 million accounts opened since the card launched in fall 2001." The statement, however, went on to say that the only feature requiring a chip, the "smart coupon" program that allows consumers to download coupons onto the smart card chip over the Internet or at store kiosks, "experienced limited use by our guests. Therefore, Target will phase out the smart chip on its Target Visa beginning this summer." Announced in June 2001, the Target program sparked excitement because it marked the first time a major U.S. retailer had committed to upgrading its point-of-sale infrastructure to accept smart cards. The upgrade of the POS infrastructure went more slowly than expected, and anecdotal evidence suggested that Target employees were not familiar with the features of the Target smart card. Visa did not return calls for comment about Target's decision.
   In late February, First Data Corp announced that it has completed its merger transaction with Concord EFS. First Data now has more than 30,000 employees worldwide and by the end of 2004 expects to have more than $10 billion in annual revenues.
   Concord EFS shareholders of record as of January 16, 2004, voted to approve the merger transaction on February 26, 2004. First Data shareholders voted to approve the issuance of First Data shares pursuant to the merger on October 28, 2003.
   Under the terms of the merger agreement with Concord as amended, each share of Concord stock was converted into 0.365 First Data common shares. The transaction is valued at approximately $7 billion based on a recent closing price of $40.79. First Data issued approximately 170 million common shares to Concord shareholders, who now own approximately 19 percent of the outstanding shares of the combined company.
   Additionally, Richard P. Kiphart from the Concord Board of Directors will join the First Data Board of Directors.
   First Atlantic Commerce Ltd, in Hamilton Bermuda, recently announced the completion of MPI functional certification with MasterCard® SecureCode™ a global e-commerce security solution for Internet retailers and member financial institutions to authenticate cardholders when they use their MasterCard and Maestro credit and debit cards to shop online.
   "FAC is implementing solutions to immediately reduce consumer card fraud," states Andrea Wilson, CEO, First Atlantic Commerce Ltd. "FAC hosts the 3-D Secure™ software on behalf of both the merchant and the Acquirer, so there is no software to purchase, license, or certify, by either the merchant or the bank." Merchant registration in MasterCard SecureCode™ is available to merchants regardless of their current chargeback history and the decision to enroll a merchant is made by the Acquiring bank.
   In response to rapid acceptance of electronic payments, the Check Conversion Education Coalition (c2ec) has launched its educational Web site, designed to address the financial industry's need to provide clear and consistent communication about the check conversion process.
   The site, www.checkconversioneducation.org, provides resources about the advantages of converting bill payment paper checks into electronic payments.
   Smart Card Case Studies and Implementation Profiles is a new publication from the Smart Card Alliance that is available to both members and non-members at the organization's online store at www.smartcardalliance.org.
   The new "Case Studies" report includes details on technology choices, business cases and lessons learned from 25 leading organizations worldwide that have implemented smart cards. Worldwide in scope, the profiles include implementations in important industry sectors and a wide variety of applications: secure identification, retail, financial, transit and health care.
   
   
   Secure Payment Systems, a national check and gift card services processor recently announced that they have reached an agreement with Redwood Merchant Services (a Division of National Bank of the Redwoods, member FDIC) to provide SPS' extensive suite of Value Added Products to retailers through their national and regional independent sales force.
   Moneris Solutions, Inc. a wholly-owned subsidiary of Moneris Solutions Corp., recently purchased the Merchant Acquiring Portfolio of RBC Centura Bank for an undisclosed sum.
   In addition, Moneris and RBC Centura have agreed to a referral arrangement, providing Moneris with the opportunity to sign up new merchant accounts from RBC Centura's 242 branches located throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Florida.
   
   
   Star Systems, a Concord EFS, Inc. company, recently launched a direct check debit and verification service, Star Chek Direct. Financial institutions, bill payment processors and check acceptance companies can use the service to streamline administration, reduce fraud losses and processing costs, speed funds availability, and generate income.

   The service offers standalone funds availability verification direct to the consumer's financial institution DDA account, as well as real-time check debit. Star Chek Direct is available for both retail POS transactions and telephone and Internet bill payments, with future deployment planned for financial institution teller windows and ATMs.
   Lipman Electronic Engineering Ltd. recently reported record annual earnings, boosted by strong results for the final quarter of 2003.
   For the fourth quarter of 2003, revenues were $36.9 million, an increase of 49.6 percent over revenues of $24.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2002. Net income for the quarter was $9.6 million, or $0.88 per diluted share, compared to $6.9 million, or $0.66 per diluted share, for the comparable period in 2002. Gross profit for the quarter was $18.6 million, or 50.3 percent of revenues, compared to $13.3 million, or 54.1% of revenues, for the fourth quarter of 2002.
   According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2003 was $17.2 billion, an increase of 25.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2002. Total retail sales for the fourth quarter of 2003 were estimated at $918.2 billion, an increase of 6.2 percent from the same period a year ago.
   The fourth quarter 2003 e-commerce estimate increased 29.7 percent from the third quarter of 2003 while total retail sales increased 5.2 percent from the prior quarter. Total e-commerce sales for 2003 were estimated at $54.9 billion, an increase of 26.3 percent from 2002. Total retail sales in 2003 increased 5.4 percent from 2002.
   
   
   Hypercom Corporation recently introduced the Optimum L4100, a compact, high speed signature capture card payment terminal designed to speed the checkout lines at multi-lane retailers.
   The device uses Internet Protocol and Universal Serial Bus-based technologies.
   Cardtronics, Inc. Houston, Tex., the largest non-bank owner of ATMs in the U.S. with over 12,000 machines located in all 50 states, has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to its initial public offering of common stock.
   Due to SEC restrictions on commentaries prior to IPOs, Brewster could not say when a public offering might take place.
   The offering seeks to raise $115 million "to create a public market for our common stock, obtain additional equity capital and facilitate future access to public markets," according to Form S-1. "We expect to use the net proceeds from this offering:
  • To repay all outstanding debt;
  • The remainder of the net proceeds for working capital and general corporate purposes, which may include acquisitions.
  • To redeem all of our outstanding preferred stock plus accrued and unpaid dividends, and,
   Under rules tucked into an appropriations bill that was approved by Congress in late 2003, telemarketers will need to renew their do-not-call lists every 30 days, rather than every 90 days ­ which was the original time frame.
   As of the early spring, the FTC had not enacted the legislation and there was no exact time frame as to when it would take effect. The New York-based Direct Marketing Association has asked that marketers be given one year to meet the new rules. Others who sent commentaries to the FTC also asked for delays, according to DMA Vice President Jim Conway.
   Though there might be delays, the approval by Congress means the 30-day limit will be enacted at some time, Conway added. This will cost telemarketers as much as three times the amount of the earlier rule, and could cause some to close their operations, according to Conway.
   The J.P. Morgan-Bank One merger cleared anti-trust hurdles in the spring. If the merger goes through as planned, the combined entity will be the largest credit card issuer in the U.S.
   The Wal-Mart suit settlement had already hit MasterCard Inc.'s bottom line by the end of 2003, according to the company's fourth quarter and annual earnings figures.
   According to the company's SEC filing, MasterCard lost $385.8 million in 2003, compared with net income of $116.4 million in 2002.
   MasterCard cited a $763 million pre-tax charge as stemming from the lawsuit: "The primary components of this charge were the monetary amount of the U.S. merchant settlement (discounted at 8 percent over the payment term), certain additional costs in connection with, and in order to comply with, other requirements of the U.S. merchant settlement, and costs to address certain merchants who opted not to participate in the U.S. merchant lawsuit," the filing said.
   Dallas-based TransFirst, a provider of transaction processing services and payment technologies, recently announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the third party and agent bank merchant division of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions.
   The transaction will increase the company's current size from $11 billion to $18.5 billion in annual processing volume and will rank the company as the nation's 12th largest processor, according to The Nilson Report's 2002 list of top U.S. bank card acquirers. The acquisition is expected to be effective on or about April 1, 2004.
   In addition to the acquisition agreement, TransFirst and Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions have entered into a relationship in which Fifth Third will refer certain third-party merchant processing leads (such as agent bank, ISOs and ISCs) to TransFirst.
   In announcing the transaction with TransFirst, Randall L. Haaff, Senior Vice President of Fifth Third Bank Processing Solutions said, "We are constantly evaluating our business model in an effort to enhance value for our shareholders. This opportunity enables us to continue to focus on providing best-in-class service and processing solutions for our national, commercial and retail merchant customer base."
   With this acquisition, TransFirst will service more than 760 agent banks and process approximately $18.5 billion in annual sales volume for more than 150,000 merchants.