Americans May Spend Less This Holiday Season

FL-based Consolidated Credit Counseling Services says its surveys shows that 58% of Americans plan to spend less this holiday season than last year with 50% saying the cutbacks are due to current economic conditions. More than 18% said they’re spending less because they’re earning less — a 4% increase over last year. Over 66% said they’re spending less because they are carrying too much debt, down from 70% last year. Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Inc. conducts the holiday spending survey annually.

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Orbtech Holdings Limited Acquires CreditPipe

Celtron’s Orbtech Holdings Limited subsidiary has acquired 100% of the outstanding stock of CreditPipe, a Mobile E-commerce platform and M-commerce enabler. Orbtech plans to launch the “Mobile Credit” service, that utilizes WIG technology that resides on a cell phone SIM card. This eliminates the need for any Web-based banking service or WAP. Users receive immediate transaction settlement in their bank account and confirmation is received in seconds via SMS protocol. Celtron has signed agreements with CreditPipe Holdings in the UK and CreditPipe Ltd in South Africa and that the acquisition will complement the current Mobile Solutions offerings of the group.

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VISA USA Deals with Cash Problems

VISA USA reportedly suffered from a short-term liquidity problem following the Wal-Mart debit card settlement and looked to its biggest members to prepay their membership fees as a solution for the cash shortage. VISA may have lost as much as $1.4 billion in its latest fiscal year, after producing close to $2.0 billion in annual revenues in recent years. According to internal documents leaked to the Wall Street Journal, top VISA members, Bank One, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America completed a funding plan last month to lend VISA funds through the early payment of their membership fees. Apparently VISA tried to borrow the funds from the banks, but did not like the terms, settling instead on the prepayments. VISA also reportedly experienced a negative equity position during the summer. However, after patching up its finances, VISA made its first installment payment of $200 million in the Wal-Mart debit card settlement three months ahead of schedule. VISA has committed to paying $200 million per year for the next ten years as part of the settlement. The Wall Street Journal says the early payment was made to qualify for a tax break.

**CLARIFICATION:** VISA USA’s effort to raise extra cash over the summer to pay for its share of the Wal-Mart debit card settlement through the early payment of membership fees was an offer extended to all members and not just the top members. VISA also noted that its loss for the 2003 fiscal year was an accounting loss as the full amount of the settlement was posted to its books.

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Online Holiday Spending to Top $17 Billion

Jupiter Research forecasts that online holiday retail sales will be $17 billion, a 21% increase over online consumer spending last year. Despite the fact that 46% of consumers stated they will shop more than four weeks before the holiday, Jupiter Research expects the convenience of online purchasing, the primary reason consumers shop online, to push purchasers to the very edge of the buying season. Jupiter Research’s Holiday 2003 Executive Survey shows that retailers have taken measures to improve their fulfillment and customer service capabilities this year, and to ensure they are ready for the last minute rush.

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Digital Insight’s AXIS Teams with BankServ

BankServ has been named Digital Insight’s preferred partner for wire transfer processing, integrating its back-office wire transfer technology with Digital Insight’s front-end “AXIS” cash management solution. Digital Insight and BankServ will develop a real-time interface between their products enabling a complete end-to-end wire processing solution. The solution will facilitate a greater number of transactions with enhanced reporting and data exchange and will also provide a comprehensive customer experience for Digital Insight clients and their business customers.

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Gemplus and Plastkart Team to Deliver Financial and Government Smart Cards

Smart card manufacturer Plastkart has formed a partnership with Gemplus International. Under terms of the deal, Gemplus will work closely with Plastkart to provide the necessary
technological support to enable Plastkart to produce smart cards for use in financial and governmental applications. Gemplus will deliver modules with related Operating Systems and the necessary know-how to meet the most stringent business needs. Plastkart will embed the modules and print the card bodies in its high-tech factory in Silivri-Istanbul. The company’s production capacity exceeds 45 million smart cards and is certified by BVQI, TSE and TUVIT TU4. About 40 million payment cards are in circulation on the Turkish market.

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Mosaic’s Postilion Powers New InsPac Card

Atiam Technologies has selected Mosaic Software’s “Postilion” for its new VISA/MasterCard stored value card that distributes insurance payouts. The “InsPac” card is geared towards the claims payments of workers compensation, short term disability, long term disability and annuity payments. Cardholders can access funds through ATMs or at the POS. “Postilion” drives payments and other financial transactions through ATMs, POS terminals, phones and Internet access points. This multi-channel architecture provides consistent cross-channel branding and integration, consolidated management information, integrated debit card management, EMV enablement and loyalty software solutions.

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WorldPay Web Site Attacked by Ukrainian Hackers

Cambridge-based WorldPay was hit this week with an online attack involving millions of emails from the Ukraine that resulted in a denial of service for many of its customers. WorldPay has about 27,000 merchant clients in 70 countries. The majority of the clients are in Europe. Major clients include Sony Music UK and Vodafone. The Company says the attack was disruptive in nature and not to commit fraud. WorldPay is a subsidiary of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

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VISA USA 3Q/03 Volume Up 13%

In a surprise move yesterday, VISA USA released third quarter data less than six weeks after the close of the quarter. VISA says total volume on its U.S. cards grew nearly 13% to more than $285 billion for the quarter. VISA debit card volume hit $118 billion in the third quarter, a 22%+ increase over the same period last year. VISA’s third quarter credit card volume grew 7% over 3Q/02 to more than $167.8 billion. VISA volume in automatic bill payments, quick service restaurants and government spending collectively grew to more than $21 billion in the third quarter, a 29% increase over the same period last year. VISA says it is confident it will hit its 2003 volume projection of $1.1 trillion.

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Advantex Annual Revenues Up 4% This Year

Toronto-based Advantex Marketing International reported that its revenue for the year ending June 30th was $96 million, a 3.8% increase of the prior year. Advantex’s net loss for fiscal 2003 was $2.2 million, compared to a net loss of $3.3 million for fiscal 2002, a 32% year-over-year improvement. Results from the Company’s established loyalty marketing business improved year over year despite the effects of SARS and merchant and consumer uncertainties surrounding Air Canada and its Aeroplan subsidiary. Advantex is a developer of syndicated loyalty marketing programs throughout North America. Clients include Aeroplan, Bank of America, CIBC, The New York Times, United Mileage Plus, and US Airways.

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InstaPay Systems’ Kryptosima Signs International Processor

Atlanta-based InstaPay Systems Kryptosima subsidiary has signed a patent license and equipment purchase agreement with an undisclosed payment processor outside the USA. The agreement also provides for Kryptosima to sell PIN pads/card readers to the processor. InstaPay’s focus is on the implementation of new payment services, such as ATM card payments from home or office to make Internet purchases or fund brokerage accounts.

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Bibit Opens Office in Japan and Adds Asia-Pacific Capabilities

Bibit Global Payment Services has expanded its payment platform with Asia-Pacific capabilities. Bibit has established a corporation in Japan, which also serves as regional HQ. The payment screens, where shoppers are invited to submit their payment details, now support Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters. Settlement in all major Asia Pacific currencies is already supported by Bibit. Bibit supports more than 70 payment methods worldwide, including all European and Asian currencies required by merchants. Bibit’s client list includes Dell, Expedia, TUI / Hapag Lloyd, Transavia, The Financial Times, Vodafone, and NEC Computers International.

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