Anywhere Gift Card

CT-based has launched the ‘Anywhere Gift MasterCard’. The pre-paid gift card is targeted at the five million Americans who celebrate a birthday every week. The card can be ordered online or via a toll-free phone number. Cards are available in denominations ranging from $25 to $1,000. Service fees range from $5.95 for a $25 card to $29.95 for a $1,000 card. The ‘Anywhere Gift Card’ is also supported by several other services offered by the company including the free ‘Reminders Service’, free ‘Gift Registry/Wish List’ service, and the free ‘Ask the Gift Guru’ personal gift suggestion service.


Simmons 1Q/01

Simmons First National Corporation announced record earnings of $4,554,000, or $0.64 diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of 2001. These earnings reflect an increase of $0.05 per share, or 8.5% increase over the first quarter of 2000 diluted earnings per share of $0.59.

Because of the Corporation’s cash acquisitions, cash earnings (net income excluding amortization of intangibles) are an integral component of earnings. Diluted cash earnings, on a per share basis, as of March 31, 2001 were $0.71 compared to $0.65 at March 31, 2000. Cash return on average assets was 1.09% and cash return on average stockholders’ equity was 11.85% for the three-month period ended March 31, 2001, compared with 1.13% and 11.79%, respectively, for the same period in 2000.

“Despite margin pressures, our Company recorded good earnings during the 1st quarter” said J. Thomas May, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “The increase in earnings was primarily attributable to strong growth in the loan portfolio.” Total assets for the Corporation at March 31, 2001, were $1.946 billion, an increase of $188 million, or 10.7%, over the same figure at March 31, 2000. During the third quarter of 2000, Simmons First completed the acquisition of eight branches with assets of $72 million. Stockholders’ equity at the end of the first quarter of 2001 was $175.0 million, a $12.2 million, or 7.5%, increase from March 31, 2000.

Asset quality remains strong with the allowance for loan losses as a percent of total loans at 1.67% as of March 31, 2001. Non-performing loans equaled 0.93% of total loans, while the allowance for loan losses equaled 179% of non-performing loans as of March 31, 2001.

As previously announced, the Company has adopted a stock repurchase program. This program authorizes the repurchase of up to 400,000 shares. As of March 31, 2001 the Company has repurchased 275,782 shares of stock with a weighted average repurchase price of $21.96 per share.


Sears 1Q/01

Sears reported Thursday that first-quarter domestic credit and financial products revenues declined 7.6% from a year ago, to $1.03 billion. This decline is primarily due to a $1.7 billion reduction in average on-book owned credit card receivables. As of Mar. 31, Sears had U.S. managed card receivables of $25.7 billion compared to $25.5 billion for 1Q/00. Revenues on the managed portfolio also declined. While average and ending managed credit card receivable balances were slightly higher than last year, overall portfolio yield declined. Portfolio yield for 1Q/01 was 19.13% compared to 20.29% one year ago. The net charge-off rate for the managed portfolio declined to 5.07% from 5.69% a year ago. Delinquency, at the end of 1Q stood at 7.50% compared to 7.56% for 4Q and 7.20% for 1Q/00. For complete details on Sears’ 1Q/01 performance visit CardData ([][1]).



Cap One PES Deal

TeamStaff, Inc., one of the nation’s leading Professional Employer Organizations, and Capital One, a leading financial services company, have formed an alliance to co-market TeamStaff Professional Employer Services. The agreement calls for a multi-year relationship in which TeamStaff will be the exclusive authorized marketer of professional employer services to Capital One’s small-business cardholders.

Donald W. Kappauf, TeamStaff’s President and CEO said, “This means we will now have a world class leader in the marketing of credit cards actively promoting our services to its small business customer base. This is a powerful way for us to reach a key segment of our customer base.” Bob Paisley, Director of Small Business Solutions at Capital One said, “From our perspective this relationship helps us broaden the financial and business solutions available to our commercial customers.”

TeamStaff Area Vice President Ray Dile said, “We are delighted to partner with Capital One in a way that helps reinforce TeamStaff’s commitment to the small business community. Our small business division has stepped up its efforts to serve this community at a time when many other PEOs have shied away. More than 85 percent of businesses in the U.S employ less than 10 people. Therefore, it makes good business sense to pursue this vast market if you have the business model to do it cost effectively and profitably – and we do!” Rosemary Ryan, head of Strategic Sales Alliances for TeamStaff’s small business operations said, “We know the challenges that small businesses face. Owners tell us they wish they could clone themselves because the administrative responsibility of being in business is a second business itself. We’re here to be that clone so today’s entrepreneurs can stay focused on their top and bottom line. We free the small business owner from the administrative aspects of being an employer so they can focus on growth. At the same time, we provide them a powerful human resource package that rivals that of any Fortune 500 company.”

In addition to its Professional Employer Organization, TeamStaff operates three other employer outsourcing services. Through TeamStaff RX, TeamStaff provides temporary and permanent medical staffing services throughout the country and is the largest provider of medical imaging personnel in its field. TeamStaff also operates DSI, its niche payroll service bureau offering payroll and tax processing to over 750 clients and 30,000 employees, mostly in the construction industries in New York and New Jersey. TeamStaff Solutions is a Manhattan-based provider of technical personnel and transaction processing for government agencies. For more information, visit the TeamStaff web site at [][1].

Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, Capital One Financial Corporation ([][2]) is a holding company whose principal subsidiaries, Capital One Bank and Capital One, F.S.B., offer consumer lending products. Capital One’s subsidiaries collectively had 36.5 million accounts and $31.6 billion in managed loans outstanding as of March 31, 2001. Capital One, a Fortune 500 company, is one of the largest providers of MasterCard and Visa credit cards in the world. Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “COF” and is included in the S&P 500 index.



Coinstar Partner

Coinstar Inc. announced The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will join the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and the American Red Cross to become Coinstar’s third national nonprofit partner.

As a part of this new partnership, Coinstar will program its network of supermarket-based machines to accept monetary donations on behalf of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Coinstar will also work with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to process change collected during the Society’s annual Pasta for Pennies and Pennies for Patients fundraising drives, in which students at schools throughout the country collect pennies and other coins for the Society.

“This new partnership with Coinstar will make it easier for our organization to collect donations,” said Dwayne Howell, president and CEO of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “In addition, it will enable us to have a presence in thousands of Coinstar supermarkets nationwide.” “Coinstar realizes the enormous value of small change,” said Rich Stillman, COO of Coinstar. “We know that in working together, we can collect enough money to assist The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in its efforts to find a cure for blood-related cancers.”

The agreement with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is part of Coinstar’s Coins that Count(R), a program that has so far collected more than $2.5 million for nonprofit organizations. In addition to partnering with national organizations such as the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, American Red Cross, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Coinstar also works with its retail partners to support their own nonprofit causes.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, based in White Plaines, New York, is the world’s fastest growing nonprofit voluntary private health organization concerned solely with funding research for cures for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, myeloma, and improving the quality of life for patients and their families. Since the society’s founding in 1949, over $200 million has been raised for research specifically targeted to the blood-related cancers. For additional information, contact the Society at 800/955-4522 or visit [][1].

About Coinstar Inc.

Coinstar Inc. (Nasdaq:CSTR) owns and operates the only nationwide network of supermarket-based machines that offer coin counting and other electronic services. Linked by a sophisticated interactive network, the company has more than 8,500 machines throughout North America as well as in the United Kingdom., the company’s majority-owned subsidiary, is an infrastructure provider that helps supermarket retailers and packaged goods manufacturers communicate directly to consumers through the use of online and in-store technologies.



Viad 1Q/01

Viad Corp announced revenue, income and earnings per share for the first quarter ended March 31, 2001.

Net income for the quarter was $24,302,000, or $0.28 per share on the diluted basis, even with 2000’s first-quarter net income of $0.28 per share on net income of $26,053,000. There were 5.5 million fewer average shares outstanding in the 2001 quarter, due primarily to share repurchase programs throughout 2000 and in the first quarter of 2001. Cash earnings per share for the quarter (defined as income plus after-tax goodwill amortization) was $0.32, also even with last year.

— Revenues of ongoing operations, on a fully taxable equivalent basis, for the first quarter were $472,466,000, up 13 percent from comparable revenues of $418,202,000 in the 2000 first quarter (excluding sold businesses).

— Operating income of ongoing businesses increased 4 percent in the quarter to $57,788,000 from comparable operating income of $55,712,000 in the 2000 quarter. First-quarter operating margins were 12.2 percent, compared to 13.3 percent in the 2000 quarter.

— Cash flow (EBITDA) for the quarter was $72,675,000, up from $71,330,000 in the 2000 quarter.

Details of financial performance for Viad’s segments include the following:

— For the quarter, operating income of Payment Services increased 17 percent on an 18 percent revenue increase. Operating margins were 19.4 percent, compared with 19.6 percent in the prior year. The results were driven by continuing strong growth in official check and money order operations. Average investable balances of Payment Services for the quarter were $4.3 billion, up 28 percent from the 2000 first quarter.

— Convention and Event Services revenues increased 11 percent in the first quarter, while first-quarter operating income was down 10 percent from the prior year. Operating margins for the quarter were 8.5 percent, compared to 10.5 percent in the 2000 quarter, resulting from continued higher labor and certain show production costs. The segment continues to move aggressively forward on eliminating and controlling overhead and reducing other costs from where they were in the latter part of 2000.

“Overall results for the quarter were positive,” Robert H. Bohannon, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said. “Even with the economy softening, forecast corporate profits of other companies down and with general uncertainty in the marketplace, combined with the erosion of consumer confidence, we continue to believe that 2001 will be another good, profitable year for Viad. No doubt 2001 will be difficult, but we are working diligently to hold expenses and overhead down, and we will work hard to prudently manage all our businesses to maximize our profit potential at all levels,” he added. Viad is a $1.8 billion S&P MidCap 400 company. Major subsidiaries include Travelers Express/MoneyGram of Minneapolis, GES Exposition Services of Las Vegas and Exhibitgroup/Giltspur of Chicago. For more information, visit the company’s Web site at [][1].

For more details on Viad’s 1Q/01 results visit CardData ([][2]).



Casino Fight

CA-based USA Payments, Inc. has filed suit against the Tropicana Casino in Las Vegas for operating unlicensed ATMs. USA says the casino has infringed on its patented ATM technology. USA Payments holds a patent for advancing cash through ATM-type machines when the request exceeds the cardholder’s daily withdrawal limit. The technology automatically transfers the request from the ATM network to a POS debit transaction and/or a PIN-less credit card cash advance. Las Vegas-based Global Cash Access is the exclusive licensee of USA Payments’ ATM technology for use in the gaming industry. GCA has installed more than 1,000 such machines in casinos throughout the country under the ‘Casino Cash Plus 3-in-1 ATM’ brand. USA says statistics show that approximately 30% of standard ATM cash request transactions at gaming properties are denied because of bad PIN numbers, exceeded limits or insufficient funds.


People’s Bank

People’s Bank reported yesterday that earnings for its Credit Card Services unit declined approximately $4 million compared to the year-ago quarter to a net loss of approximately $3 million. These results primarily reflect higher managed charge-offs partially offset by an increase in managed net interest income. The higher losses are a result of the bank’s risk-based repricing strategy implemented in 2000, the impact of changing economic conditions on the consumer lending industry and higher bankruptcy-related losses. People’s reported average managed loans for credit card services declined $267 million and that average managed U.S. credit card receivables decreased $736 million, or 20%. Net charge-offs for the credit card services segment equaled 5.62% compared to 4.10% for 1Q00 and 4.62% for 4Q00. Delinquencies, as a percentage of quarter-end managed loans, for the credit card services segment equaled 3.96% compared to 2.77% for 1Q00 and 3.56% for 4Q00. For current and historical data on People’s credit cad portfolio visit CardData ([][1]).



Cubic MD Contract

Cubic Transportation Systems, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Cubic Corp., has won a $21.9 million contract to provide Maryland’s buses with a new fare system compatible with the Washington Metro’s popular SmarTrip card. Under the contract, older Cubic bus fare collection boxes will be replaced with a system that allows riders to use coins, currency, magnetic tickets and the Washington Metropolitan Area (WMATA) SmarTrip contactless smart card. The Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MTA) has named Cubic the prime contractor for the new automatic fare collection program. The system will eventually link payment for 850 Baltimore region buses and 107 over the road vehicles serving suburban Maryland commuters to the WMATA system. The MTA contract also provides the agency’s subway system with entry gate upgrades. The gates will have new magnetic card “swipe” readers so that they are also linked with the new bus payment system.

WMATA recently announced a new contract with Cubic that will link Metro buses to its rail payment program, creating the country’s first regional interstate multi-modal public transit fare collection system. With the MTA contract with Cubic, the regional system also will be the first smart card to serve more than one transit agency.

“To reach our goal of doubling ridership by 2020, we must make it more convenient for people to use transit,” said Maryland’s Governor Parris N. Glendening. “The Smart Card system will allow customers to quickly pay their fares without fumbling for change or worrying about the exact fare. The cards are now accepted on the Metrorail system in the Washington region where they receive excellent reviews from the public. It is time to expand this convenience to other transit customers around the state.” Cubic was the architect of the two-year-old SmarTrip system, the nation’s first mass transit smart card fare collection program. WMATA has issued 160,000 smart cards to commuters who have become accustomed to touching a card to the high tech card readers to enter the subway without removing their cards from their wallets or purses. In addition, Cubic helped WMATA implement SmartBenefits, a program that allows participating federal and private sector employees to receive transit benefits directly on their SmarTrip cards. Under the new contract, Maryland buses will utilize Cubic’s Tri-Reader(R) technology. Tri-Reader is one of Cubic’s Nextfare(TM) Solution Suite advanced smart card tools, developed to plug into new and existing mass transit systems.

This technology can provide an open architecture which provides the flexibility to use cards from a variety of suppliers.

Cubic Transportation Systems is the world’s largest supplier of total revenue services, including integrated ticketing and automated fare collection systems for mass transit that utilize a magnetic ticketing-based system to support the future addition of smart card systems as transit agencies expand their fare collection services. On an annual basis, at least 10 billion people pay for their mass transit rides using Cubic-designed payment systems in more than 40 markets on five continents, including London, Washington D.C., Hong Kong, Chicago, New York, Guangzhou and Shanghai, China, Atlanta, San Francisco, Sydney, Australia, Singapore and Miami, among other major installations. Cubic’s magnetic ticketing technology is the foundation for many of the world’s largest fare collection systems, including New York, London and Sydney, Australia. Cubic also pioneered contactless fare collection for mass transit more than 10 years ago. Since then, the company has integrated various smart card technologies in Europe, Asia and North America. In addition to the SmarTrip program, which made contactless payment available in August to Chicago’s full-fare bus and rail passengers and suburban bus customers. Cubic’s Defense Group provides instrumented training systems for military forces, data links, avionics systems, product logistical support, battle command training, radio communications systems, and field service operation and maintenance.


Vital CTO

Vital Processing Services announced the appointment of Robert Blair to serve as senior vice president and chief technology officer.

Blair will provide leadership and strategic direction for all information technology functions for all Vital affiliates. Based in Tempe, AZ, Blair will report to Ron Carter, executive vice president of operations and technology, and will serve on Vital’s senior management committee.

“Robert’s experience in large scale technology-intensive service businesses and his deep experience in complex technology environments will serve Vital well as we strive to help our clients win in the merchant services industry,” said Jonathan Palmer, Vital’s President and CEO.

Most recently, Robert served as the chief information officer at CitiStreet, a joint venture of CitiGroup and State Street Bank. In this capacity, he had responsibility for both client/server applications and the core processing business systems that provided client specific requirements. Prior to that, Robert held senior technology positions with Barnett Bank/Barnett Technologies.

“I am proud to join one of the leading merchant processing companies in the country, and I look forward to applying my experience in technology to help make a positive difference for Vital’s clients,” said Robert Blair.

About Vital Processing Services ([][1])

Arizona-based Vital Processing Services® (Vital®) is a leader in technology-based commerce enabling services. Vital’s clients include acquirers and merchant service providers that offer electronic payment processing services to merchants, such as POS products, electronic authorization and data capture; VirtualNetTM Internet-commerce services; clearing, settlement and exception processing; accounting, billing and reporting; risk management; and customer service. Vital is a merchant processing joint venture of Visa® USA and Total System Services, Inc.® (TSYS) (NYSE: “TSS”).




The Bangladesh government has permitted five local firms to launch pre-paid
phone cards in the country. The companies that won licenses include:
Omnicom Limited, Cosmos Telecom Private Limited, Coronet Corporation
Limited, Uttara Telecom Limited and Formula One International Limited.
Islam said the companies would have to pay an annual royalty of five
500,000 taka each to the government. The operators would retain a 14.92%
profit. The new cards are expected to be rolled-out in June after the five
firms sign operational agreements with state-run Bangladesh Telegraph and
Telephone Board.


Rate Cut

The Federal Open Market Committee stunned Wall Street yesterday with an expected rate cut. With a drop of 50 bps in short term interest rates, the prime rate began dropping late yesterday and this morning to 7.50%. Most variable rate credit cards are based on either the prime rate or LIBOR rate. Prior to today, the Feds have sliced 150 basis points (1.50%) off short term interest rates which has dropped the prime rate from 9.50% to 8.00%. With most bank credit card issuers adjusting credit card rates monthly, the previous rate cuts have been passed on and issuers adjusting rates quarterly, are passing along previous rate cuts during the April billing cycle. Since short term interest rates have declined so dramatically since the start of this year it is very likely that fixed interest rates on credit cards will be impacted by summer. Currently the average offered rate on a variable credit card is 14.66% compared to a 16.04% offered APR for a fixed rate card.