As first reported in last Wednesday’s issue, the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund is releasing a letter this week to shareholders of MBNA asking them to support its proxy resolution seeking greater board independence. MBNA insists that five of its seven directors are “independent.” However, TIAA-CREF says that in light of the longstanding and extensive business, professional, personal, and familial relationships some of these “independent” directors have with the company and key managers, most of the board currently is not “independent.” the TIAA-CREF says the proxy statement refers to the board’s determination that some of these individuals are “independent” because, among other reasons, the individuals themselves assert that they believe they are “independent.” TIAA-CREF says shareholders should be skeptical about such “independence” given that these same directors were part of the system that produced excesses such as egregious executive stock compensation, post retirement benefits and spousal benefits including the personal use of company airplanes. The first draft of the letter was prepared last Wednesday and was scheduled to be released today to shareholders. The final draft prepared on Friday will be mailed on April 15th. College Retirement Equities Fund holds more than 17.9 million shares of common stock in MBNA. (CF Library 4/7/04)Details
Four banks have signed MOUs with China UnionPay Company to become members and to jointly develop a range of renminbi-denominated credit card and ATM services. Under the proposed program, Hong Kong residents will be issued CUP credit cards denominated in renminbi that can be used in over 300,000 CUP merchant outlets accepting CUP cards in mainland China. Mainland residents carrying a CUP card will be able use their cards at Hong Kong merchants and ATMs. Standard Chartered says it will install CUP POS machines at designated merchant outlets and will commence merchant acquiring services in mid-April, to
capitalize on the surge in mainland tourist arrivals in Hong Kong during the “Golden Week” holiday in May. HSBC expects to issue CUP RMB cards in Hong Kong before the year-end. Hang Seng Bank says the well-developed cross-border payment system operated by CUP will provide new business opportunities for local banks. Bank of East Asia expects to launch its own CUP-branded RMB card in the near future. CUP is the national card payment network in mainland China, with a range of services covering credit card, debit card and ATM network operation.
Portland, OR-based AssetExchange reported it facilitated the sale of two credit union credit card portfolios to two buyers. InfiCorp Holdings purchased the credit card portfolio of Members First Credit Union of New Hampshire, and an undisclosed buyer purchased the credit card portfolio of Fiscal Credit Union, based in Glendale, CA. Atlanta-based InfiCorp has become a market leader in credit union portfolio acquisitions, and is joined by Elan Services, MBNA and TNB Card Services. Last year, 59 credit union credit card portfolios changed hands. AssetExchange is a credit card consulting and brokerage firm providing portfolio brokerage, performance assessments, market valuations, and best practices consulting.Details
Ascom MonÃ©tel has changed its name to Ascom SA and is aiming to become the world leader in fare solutions and to assert a key position on the public telecommunications access terminals market. The Ascom SA entity still retains its former structure under the responsibility of Eric Jean, the Chairman of the Board of Directors. In addition to its Fare Collection activities, Ascom SA still retains its multimedia & pay systems under its new title while remaining one of the world’s leading specialists in public telecommunications terminals. Far beyond conventional payphones, these terminals can provide Web and e-business services that mobile telephones cannot contend with. Ascom SA has a work force of 450 persons.Details
Newport News Municipal Employees Credit Union in Virginia, and Parkridge Credit Union in Chattanooga, Tennessee have signed deals for Global Axcess’ turnkey ATM network solution. The Company’s Branded Cash Program is a turnkey ATM network solution, owned and managed by Nationwide Money, that is marketed to credit unions, community banks, and regional financial institutions. Global Axcess Corp. was founded in 2001 with a mission to emerge as one of the nation’s leading network-based electronic commerce and transaction processing companies. Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Nationwide Money Services, Inc., the Company provides turnkey ATM management solutions that include cash, project and account management services.Details
VISA not only passed the $1 trillion card volume milestone in the USA last year, it also passed the one billion card mark globally. Together, VISA and MasterCard had 1,716,531,000 cards-in-force, worldwide, at the end of 2003, an 8% increase over the prior year. In the USA, VISA and MasterCard had 775.3 million cards, about 44% of the total global distribution. Europe and Asia-Pacific each make up approximately 19% of the total card distribution worldwide. In Canada, VISA and MasterCard are equally represented. VISA has 24.5 million cards versus MasterCard’s 26.6 million, in Canada. VISA continues to dominate Latin America with 147.2 million cards compared to MasterCard’s 47.7 million. Latin America makes up about 11% of the total global card distribution.Details
VISA USA and the Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda is recognizing teachers this month in the “Practical Money Skills for Life Educator Challenge.” The Practical Money Skills for Life program offers consumers of all ages practical information and activities to enhance their money management skills. The Practical Money Skills for Life Educator Challenge will reward the winning teacher with a personal computer, $2,500 merchandise credit towards classroom supplies, and a mini-computer lab for his or her classroom. The Practical Money Skills for Life curriculum is teacher tested and teacher approved. Visa is the world’s leading payment brand and largest consumer payment system, enabling banks to provide their consumer and merchant customers with a wide variety of payment alternatives.Details
Audi of America and Bank One are launching a co-branded “VISA Signature Card” next month in the USA, offering an instant line of credit at the dealership which can be used as a downpayment. Furthermore, rewards generated by the new card can be redeemed for payments toward an automobile loan or lease. The new “Audi VISA Signature Card” rewards cardholders with two points for every dollar spent at participating Audi dealers and “Audi Collection” purchases, and one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Points can also be redeemed for vehicle service or maintenance, driving experiences, or tickets to the “12 Hours of Sebring.” Additionally, rewards can be used in the form of discounts on brand name merchandise, airline tickets, hotels, restaurants, and retail gift cards. Points can be redeemed at the minimum 2,500 point level. Approved cardholders also receive an initial instant credit line of up to $5,000 that can be used at the dealerships for Audi purchases, for which they will receive double points. Beginning in May, participating Audi dealerships across the country will feature instant credit applications, enabling consumers to apply for the “Audi VISA Signature Card” when applying for Audi credit for an automobile loan or lease. The “VISA Signature” product is a hybrid credit-charge card with no preset spending limit.Details
Atlanta-based Merchant Services Advocate launched a Web site last week to provide litigation information involving individuals and companies that make up the transaction and payment processing portion of the industry, and has plans to launch an online “Formal Complaint Department” for the merchant services industry. The MSA will soon launch the only “Formal Complaint Department” in the merchant services industry. Never before has there been any opportunity for an individual or a company to file a grievance against another business or individual. The MSA also has a forum and dedicated chat room ([www.themsa.net/portalt]) which The MSA will utilize as an educational and training tool.
Mobile phone specialist, Talkline, has partnered with BarclayCard to launch a co-branded VISA credit card. The card offers discount of up to 10% on Talkline products plus a credit of 20 Euros towards the customer’s mobile phone contract. If the card is used with the first six weeks, a 50% discount will be applied. The card carries an interest rate of 1.7% and offers a eight week grace period.Details
Even with an extra day, Americans downshifted during “President’s Month,” adding about half as much revolving credit as they did one-year ago. The slowdown in February followed a very robust January wherein consumers added nearly $8 billion to revolving credit, compared to $3 billion in January 2003. According to figures released yesterday by the Federal Reserve, consumers added $1.6 billion in revolving credit in February, compared to $3.1 billion one-year ago. At the end of February 2004, Americans owed $754.8 billion in revolving credit. The annual growth rate was 2.5% for February 04, compared to 5.9% for February 03. In January 2004, the annual growth rate was a revised 12.6%. Bank credit card debt (excluding store and gas credit cards) at the end of the fourth quarter was $672.3 billion, or roughly 89% of total revolving credit, according to CardData (www.carddata.com). At the end of February, Americans were $2018.5 billion in debt, excluding home mortgages.
REVOLVING CREDIT HISTORICAL ($billions)
Feb 04 Jan04 Dec03 Nov03 Oct03 Sep03 Aug03
GRWTH: 2.5% 12.6 2.2 4.9 5.2 6.8 3.4
$OWED: $754.8 753.2 745.4 743.8 740.5 737.3 729.1
Jul03 Jun03 May03 Apr03 Mar03 Feb03 Jan03
GRWTH: 1.4% -2.4 7.7 3.4 4.1 5.9 5.2
$OWED: $726.8 725.9 727.9 722.8 720.7 718.6 715.5
Source: Federal Reserve; revised figures as of 4/07/04;
For complete historical data visit CardData (www.carddata.com)
Starwood Hotels announced yesterday it will deploy self-service kiosks to more than two dozen Sheraton U.S. properties and ultimately be installed nationwide. Starwood recently tested and refined kiosks at two hotels and is launching its new and improved kiosk in its largest brand, Sheraton. Sheraton Speed Check makes its debut today at the brand’s flagship, the newly renovated Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in midtown Manhattan, and will roll out over the next several months to more than two dozen U.S. properties and ultimately nationwide. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 740 properties in more than 80 countries and 110,000 employees at its owned and managed properties.Details