AccesRail Accepts UATP for Rail Fare

AccesRail, a general sales agent for rail carriers based in Quebec is a new Universal Air Travel Plan Merchant, now accepting UATP as a form of payment for rail fare. AccesRail settles all UATP transactions through UATP Settlement Services. USS is UATP’s weekly settlement system also used by travel agencies and non-clearing house carriers to process UATP transactions. AccesRail was created to provide railways with an interface to GDS companies using standard airline systems. Its objective is to allow rail carriers to distribute their product using the global GDS and BSP systems originally created for the airline industry. UATP accounts are actively issued by 15 member airlines and accepted as a form of payment for corporate business travel by more than 200 airlines worldwide.

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VISA International Cardholders Contribute 26% of Tourism

VISA reports that its international cardholders spent Bht 84,300 million in Thailand, representing 26% of Thailand’s total tourism spend. According to latest official published data, Bht 329,000 million was spent by tourists in Thailand during 2002. This shows for every Bht 1,000 spent in Thailand by tourists, Bht 260 was spent using a VISA card, up from Bht 170 in 1999. According to a VISA-commissioned study by Network Economics Consulting Group, the top spenders in Thailand in 2003 were cardholders from the USA who spent Bht 15,300 million, the United Kingdom (Bht 12,800 million), Japan (Bht 9,300 million), Hong Kong (Bht 4,300 million) and Sweden (Bht 4,200 million). Together these five visitor sources accounted for 52% of total international VISA spend in Thailand.

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50MM Multi-Application Smart Cards to be Shipped in 2008

A new study on the global smart card IC market has found that the industry generated revenue totaling $1.40 billion in 2003 with total market revenue expected to reach $2.38 billion in 2007. The Frost & Sullivan study found that card issuers’ misgiving about uncertain return on investment on multi-application smart cards is one of the primary barriers to its greater deployment. To build demand, smart card manufacturers and open platform consortium need to establish a viable business case for multi-application cards. Frost & Sullivan found that this market generated unit shipment of 220 million for “JavaCard” and 8.3 million for “MULTOS” in 2003. Total market unit shipment is expected to reach 867 million and 46.8 million for “JavaCard” and “MULTOS,” respectively, in 2008.

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ICMA Holds its First Workshop in Asia

The International Card Manufacturers Association will hold its first-ever educational workshop in Asia. The “Innovative Solutions for Plastic Card Production” workshop will be held August 31 – September 1, at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, Korea. The conference will be
co-hosted by ICMA’s president, T.K. Choi, CEO of KBC Corporation, and Victor Chan, VP of business development for NBS Technologies. Serving as Keynote Speaker will be Mr. Ho Gun Lee, CEO of BC Card Co. and Chairman of KEPIA (Korea Electronic Payment Industry Association), who will explore standardization issues in his session, “One Card, One Asia.”

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Dione Logs £1.4 Million in Fiscal 2003 Profit

Smart card specialist Dione reported record revenues and profits for the 2003 fiscal year of £17.8m and £1.4m, respectively. Dione says its continued success will see Dione equipment present at over 40% of the points of sale in the UK, the first country to adopt the global EMV “Chip & PIN” standard. Success in the UK market is mirrored elsewhere, with significant extensions to banking relationships in Scandinavia, South Africa and Latin America plus the selection by MasterCard for Dione to participate in its global “M-Tip” terminal improvement program. Last year also saw the completion of a three year R&D project with Wincor Nixdorf and Tesco to introduce a successful EMV “Chip & PIN” solution for the multi-lane retail sector.

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Frontier Airlines Links-Up with The Points Exchange

Points International has signed an exclusive five-year agreement with Frontier Airlines to increase the potential of “EarlyReturns,” the carrier’s loyalty program. Beginning in late August, “EarlyReturns” will join “The Points Exchange” as a tradable loyalty currency on points.com. Both “Points” and “EarlyReturns” members can partake in the partnership by exchanging miles and points with over 3,600 exchange options, from more than 42 partners listed, on “The Points Exchange” and earning instant rewards from their preferred loyalty programs. Frontier frequent fliers can earn bonus “EarlyReturns” miles by purchasing a “pointsplus” membership and extra-bonus “EarlyReturns” by using their “Frontier MasterCard.” A “pointsplus” membership is $19.95 per year and offers unlimited exchanges on points.com. Frontier will also begin using the “Points Suite” of online loyalty management solutions to support the airline’s loyalty program.

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FreeStar Technology Revenues Triple as Loss Narrows

Helsinki-based FreeStar Technology reported revenues for the three months ended March 31st, increased to $329,659, an increase of $17,028 compared to revenues of $312,631 for the three months ended March 31, 2003. Net loss attributable to common shareholders for the three months ended March 31, 2004 decreased to $802,974, an improvement of $2,210,574 or approximately 73% compared to the net loss of $3,013,548 realized during the comparable quarter of the prior year. Revenues for the nine months ended March 31st, rose to $991,033, up from $321,331 for the comparable nine months of the prior year. Net loss attributable to common shareholders decreased by approximately 48% to $4,477,860, representing an improvement of $4,201,267 compared to the loss of $8,679,127 for the comparable period of the prior year. FreeStar Technology is an international payment processing and technology company operating a robust Northern European BASE24 credit card processing.

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VISA Launches its First Regional Initiative

VISA International has launched “Experience Surabaya 2004” to expand card acceptance, boost inbound tourism and drive economic growth through increased retail spending. “Experience Surabaya” will promote the city as the preferred destination during the school holidays to VISA’s customer base of more than six million debit and credit cardholders across the nation. Currently, there are around 2,300 active merchants in Surabaya that accept VISA cards for payment. Through the “Experience Surabaya” program, VISA expects to boost the number of merchant locations to 3,000 by end of this year with a focus on growing electronic card acceptance terminals. “Experience Surabaya,” which runs from June 25 to August 22,is
VISA’s first regional initiative in Indonesia to help expand electronic payments across the country geographically, and enhance the electronic payments infrastructure for inbound tourists and local VISA cardholders.

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Alpha Bank Adds More VeriFone Terminals for the Olympics

Alpha Bank has ordered 1,300 VeriFone “Omni 3750” terminals to be installed for the Olympics. VeriFone is also kicking off a new advertising campaign focusing on the 30,000 locations in Greece where VeriFone POS terminals are installed. The latest contract brings the total number of VeriFone terminals used by Alpha Bank, the second largest bank in Greece, to more than 16,000. VeriFone has sold more than 30,000 “Omni 3750” terminals in the Greek market since its launch, and has more than 100,000 VeriFone terminals currently in operation in Greece today.

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MAESTRO 1Q/04

MasterCard reported that its “Maestro” online debit program crossed the 500+ million cards-in-force milestone during the first quarter, a 40% jump over the first quarter of 2001. “Maestro” is now accepted at over 10 million merchant terminals in 93 countries, with almost 1.5 million merchant locations in the USA. At the end of March, MasterCard had 524 million cards worldwide carrying the “Maestro” brand, with $329 billion in gross dollar volume for the first quarter. Europe continued to be the largest cardholder base for “Maestro” with 242.3 million cards, a 7% increase over the same period in 2003. GDV for online debit activity in the region for the first quarter was $261.6 billion. The number of “Maestro” cards issued in Asia/Pacific was 143.9 million with GDV of $43.1 billion for the first quarter. In Latin America, “Maestro” card numbers doubled to 68.3 million cards, compared to the end of the first quarter in 2003. GDV for online debit activity in the region for the
first quarter was $9.5 billion. The South Asia, Middle East and Africa region also experienced exceptional card growth with a 40.1% increase to 22.5 million cards at the end of the first quarter, compared to the end of the first quarter of 2003. GDV for online debit activity in the region for the first quarter of 2004 was $14.8 billion.

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MasterCard Platinum and Gold Cardholders get Gulf Air Discounts

MasterCard “Platinum” and “Gold” cardholders will get special deals from Gulf Air for premium travel when they book tickets between now and 31 August. The promotion, a first in the region, spans across seven markets in Asia/Pacific. During the promotional period,”Platinum” and “Gold” cardholders who book tickets with Gulf Air in first and business class from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore and Sydney to any destination on the Gulf Air network will benefit from an exclusive offer with the airline. Gulf Air offers an extensive route network, which covers over 45 destinations worldwide across Asia, Europe, the Gulf, Middle East, Indian Sub-continent and Australia.

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Challenges Abound for Basel II Implementation

A new study has found that banks see significant challenges remaining in their preparations to implement the “Basel II Capital Accord.” The research, sponsored by Accenture, Mercer Oliver Wyman and SAP, indicate that U.S. and Asia-Pacific banks lag behind their European counterparts in several key areas of preparation for “Basel II.” “Basel II” updates and expands 1988 capital rules for risk-management practices that align capital more closely with operational, credit and market risks for banks operating internationally. The survey found that many banks have significant work remaining to satisfy the requirements of two of the three major elements of “Basel II:” setting up a risk-based supervisory structure within the bank and increasing market discipline through expanded disclosure. Nearly two-thirds of banks surveyed described their enterprise-wide risk management framework as poor or average. Just over 60% of respondents described their economic capital systems as poor or average. “Basel II” will also require banks to make significant changes to their business practices. Nearly 90% of survey respondents say change is likely in their operational risk management processes. In addition, almost 8 in 10 bank executives say that their credit risk management processes are likely to change. The survey found widespread expectations that “Basel II” will significantly affect lending. Slightly over half of bankers in the survey said they expect to expand unsecured retail loans, while 48% projected increased retail mortgages and 45% predicted more SME credit.

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