Taking Stock

Metris Companies announced that Ronald Zebeck, its chairman and chief executive officer, has exercised stock options to purchase 1.3 million shares of its common stock. In conjunction with this exercise, Mr. Zebeck has sold 750,000 shares at $38 per share through William Blair & Company, L.L.C. Approximately 90% of the $28.5 million proceeds will be required for tax payments related to the exercise of these options.

Mr. Zebeck is selling these shares pursuant to a selling shareholder prospectus included with an effective registration statement on form S-8 filed May 14, 1998.

After the exercise and sale, Mr. Zebeck will own 828,536 shares of Metris’ common and restricted stock, compared with 266,386 shares he owned as of April 30, 2000.

Metris Companies Inc. is an information-based direct marketer of consumer credit products and enhancement services. Based in St. Louis Park, Minn., Metris also has operations in Scottsdale, Ariz.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Champaign, Ill.; White Marsh, Md.; and Tulsa, Okla. Metris employs more than 3,700 people.


Fire Sale

Bankrate.com owner, ilife.com, Inc., formerly known as Intelligent Life Corp, is trying to unload assets to stay alive. This morning Ilife.com announced it is putting up two of its divisions for sale, namely Consejero.com and Pivot.com. Consejero.com is a Spanish-language personal finance site providing information on investing, banking, credit products and other personal finance topics. (“Consejero” is Spanish for “advisor”.) Pivot.com is a licensed life and property and casualty insurance agency providing B2B Internet fulfillment solutions to insurance companies, banks, large agencies and affinity groups. Last week, ilife.com closed on a deal to sell its college focused web site, CPNet.com, to Colleges.com. In August, 1999, ilife.com acquired Pivot.com for $290,000 cash and a $4,350,000 five-year convertible subordinated note to Midland Life Insurance Company. Last year Pivot.com produced approximately $150,000 in revenues and a net loss of more than $2.1 million. Consejero.com generated slightly more than $8,000 in revenues and a net loss of more than $2.2 million for 1999. After going public one year ago and spending heavily on marketing, ilife.com is expected to deplete its cash by year end. A recent Barron’s commissioned study from Pegasus Research International of 207 Internet-based companies found that ilife.com was the 10th most likely company to run out of funds within the next year. Ilife.com raised $41.3 million in its May 1999 IPO, but produced a net pre-tax loss of $31.5 million last year. The company said this morning it is selling off assets to rebuild a company that leverages the equity of its core brand, which is bankrate.com.


Axiohm Re-Emerges

Transaction printer manufacturer, Axiohm Transaction Solutions, Inc., reported Friday it has successfully emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Last week the firm met all conditions for consummation of its reorganization plan including the closing of a new $85.5 million credit facility, provided by a syndicate of lenders led by Lehman Commercial Paper. The facility includes a $23 million revolving line of credit. The firm now emerges as a private company with majority ownership now held by the holders of the company’s previous $120 million of senior subordinated notes. In related action the company’s new board appointed Marc Pfefferle as the new CEO with Nicolas Dourassoff continuing to serve as president. The firm also announced the hiring of Jack Canty as the new corporate controller. Axiohm announced the relocation of its corporate headquarters from Blue Bell, PA to the company’s existing manufacturing facility in Ithaca, New York.


MC MetroCards

MasterCard and New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority have teamed up to issue one million limited-edition ‘MetroCards’ featuring four New York Mets players. The cards commemorate the ‘2000 Subway Series’ which will be held July 7-9 at Shea Stadium. The stored value cards went on sale last week and will be available through June 20. The ‘MetroCards’ can be purchased either at MetroCard vending machines or online. Consumers who use their MasterCard card to purchase the limited edition ‘MetroCards’ will automatically be entered in a sweepstakes to win a pair of tickets to the Subway Series. The promotion is being supported with an advertising campaign that will include 2,280 subway car premium squares, 4,000 11″ x 28″ bus cards, 800 one-sheet station posters, a tile on the MetroCard.CitySearch.com site, and a page on the MTA website.


GemXpresso Certified

Gemplus, the world’s leading provider of smart card-based solutions has obtained certification from Visa International for GemXpresso 211 – V1′, the first smart card to support Java Card API 2.1 and Open Platform 2.0. A Gemplus smart card platform based on Java Card specification from SUN Microsystems (Virtual Machine 2.1, Java Card API 2.1) and Open Platform 2.0, GemXpresso 211 – V1′ has the exceptional ability to add applications even if the card has already been issued to a cardholder. GemXpresso 211 – V1′ provides full interoperability of both source code & byte code of any applet, thanks to the Java Card 2.1 specification and is based on the Philips Semiconductors’ highly advanced P8WE5032 crypto controller.

Gemplus is a pioneer in developing and launching Open Platform cards: the first GemXpresso was released in 1997 while in June 1998, GemXpresso was the first Open Platform card to be implemented in a real life application in Singapore. Then in March 1999, GemXpresso 210 was the first smart card based upon Open Platform to be approved by Visa. In January 2000, GemXpresso 211 received the first French Common Criteria certification for a Java Card.

GemXpresso 211 – V1′ comes with a portfolio of applets including Visa Smart Debit and Credit payment application and a series of Gemplus applets for authentication and loyalty.

“This approval is recognition of Gemplus’ long-term relationship with Visa International and our involvement in Java” said Sami Baghdadi, vice president for Banking. “With a portfolio of applets and Java Card platforms, consulting and personalization services, Gemplus is the unique smart-card based solutions provider to have a complete value chain around the Visa Open Platform standard.”

“We are delighted to be able to approve this card as the first to support Java Card API 2.1 and version 2.0 of the Open Platform specifications and congratulate Gemplus on their achievement,” said James Lee, senior vice president, Emerging Technologies, Visa International. “As we see more and more countries start to migrate to chip, it is important that we continue to advance the technology and provide solutions which offer full interoperability.”

About Gemplus

Gemplus S.A. ([www.gemplus.com][1]) is the world’s leading provider of plastic and smart card-based solutions (by units sold, source: Dataquest 1998). Gemplus sells magnetic stripe cards, memory and microprocessor-based smart cards, smart contactless cards, electronic tags and smart objects. The company designs and markets software, development tools and readers. Gemplus also provides consulting, training and personalization services to deliver the industry’s most comprehensive and flexible card-based solutions to its developers, distributors, partners, and customers.

With sales of over $US817 million in 1999, Gemplus employs almost 6,300 people in 17 manufacturing facilities, 7 R&D centers and 41 sales and marketing offices located in more than 30 countries around the world. Founded in 1988, Gemplus has successfully implemented portable and secure smart card -based solutions to simplify applications such as public and wireless communications, financial transactions, loyalty, transportation, education, healthcare, identity, physical access control, pay TV, electronic commerce, Internet security, logical access control and information technology.

About Visa

As the “World’s Best Way to Pay,” Visa is the world’s leading payment brand and the largest payment system worldwide with more volume than all other major payment cards combined. Visa plays a pivotal role in advancing new payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions and their cardholders. Visa has more than 80 smart card programs in 35 countries and on the Internet, with 23 million Visa chip cards, including eight million Visa Cash cards. Visa is pioneering SET Secure Electronic Transaction(TM) programs to enable and advance Internet commerce.

There are over 970 million Visa, Visa Electron, Interlink, PLUS and Visa Cash cards, which generate more than US$1.5 trillion in annual volume. Visa-branded cards are accepted at over 18 million worldwide locations, including at more than 550,000 ATMs in the Visa Global ATM Network. Visa’s Internet address is [www.visa.com][2].

[1]: http://www.gemplus.com/
[2]: http://www.visa.com/


MeT Initiative

The MeT Initiative, whose initiators are Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia, announced this week that they will cooperate with MasterCard International’s Global Mobile Commerce Forum, a cross-industry initiative focusing on the development of secure mobile payments over a variety of technology platforms. The Forum, which now has more than 200 participants, was established last November to foster knowledge exchange between MasterCard’s member financial institutions, network operators and leading mobile technology companies.


Irish Card War

American credit card issuers are coming under heavy fire in Ireland this week. Yesterday, The Bank of Ireland attacked the MBNA and Prudential credit cards. BOI says Prudential’s ‘Egg VISA’ and MBNA’s ‘VISA’ are misleading consumers with low teaser rates and high penalty fees. For example, the ‘Egg VISA’ currently offers a six-month 4.7% APR for balance transfers and charges 20 pounds for going over the credit limit or making a late payment. BOI also attacked the co-branded ‘Tesco VISA’ card issued by The Royal Bank of Scotland. The ‘Tesco VISA’ offers a 4.9% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers thru January 2001. RBS also charges 12 pounds for a late payment or going over-limit on the ‘Tesco VISA’. BOI says it does not impose any such fees for late payments or exceeding the credit limit. BOI also says its best credit card rate of 12.9% tops the 15.9% go-to rate charged Tesco and 18.9% go-to rate charged by MBNA.

Egg VISA 4.7% 10.9% None
Tesco VISA 4.9% 14.9% None
MBNA VISA 5.9% 17.9% None
Goldfish MC 4.9% 18.9% None
Bank of Ireland GMC NA 18.9% 20 pounds
Bank of Ireland VISA NA 19.3% None
Barclaycard VISA NA 19.9% 10 pounds
NatWest MC 13.9% 21.4% 12 pounds

Source: CardPlanet (www.cardplanet.com)


Teen Power

A survey released this morning confirmed that teenagers frequently access the Internet, spend a significant amount of time online, and hold sizeable purchasing power. However the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey also found that teens rarely go online to shop. While parental permission and the ability to pay for products online are major barriers to online shopping, 78% of teens’ purchases are paid for using a parent’s credit card. This is bad news for the flock of new payment card companies seeking to develop teen payment systems. The survey results also showed that most teens regularly go online to send or receive e-mail and nearly half indicate that e-mail is the primary reason they go online. While just over one-fourth of online teens cite shopping as a reason for regularly going online, only 2% indicate that shopping is their primary reason for going online. Other primary reasons teens cited for going online: research information 19%; play games 10%; use chat rooms 10%; and download music/video 6%.


Sears Checkmate

IVI Checkmate Corp. announced an agreement with Orchard Supply Hardware of San Jose, CA, naming IVI Checkmate as the preferred supplier of interactive touch screen terminals for payment and value-added consumer program delivery for Orchard Supply Hardware store locations. Orchard Supply Hardware is a division of Sears, Roebuck and Company.

The agreement specifies that IVI Checkmate will supply eN-Touch 1000(TM) customer-interactive touch screen and signature capture terminals for installation at OSH’s checkout lanes. OSH will initially implement the eN- Touch 1000 customer-interactive touch screen and signature capture terminals for consumer-activated credit and online debit payment. OSH will also be implementing BIN management, which allows them to differentiate between a credit card or check card as it is being tendered. Using the eN-Touch 1000’s touch screen capabilities, if a check card is tendered, OSH will have the ability to prompt the customer for their PIN (personal identification number), reducing their per transaction cost. OSH will implement signature capture in a later phase.

“OSH selected IVI Checkmate as its exclusive payment terminal supplier based on our industry leadership in multi-lane payment technology and our connectivity experience,” stated Lloyd Baylard, Senior Vice President of Sales of IVI Checkmate’s Retail Solutions organization. “The selection of IVI Checkmate provides Orchard Supply Hardware with a robust and versatile terminal for consumer payment with which they can expand to include signature capture, electronic couponing, targeted promotional advertising, and many other value-added services,” added Baylard.

About IVI Checkmate

IVI Checkmate is the third largest electronic transaction solutions provider in North America. The Company designs, develops and markets innovative payment and value-added solutions that optimize transaction management at the point-of-service in the retail, financial, hospitality, healthcare and transportation industries. IVI Checkmate’s software, hardware and professional services minimize transaction costs, reduce operational complexity and improve profitability for its customers in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. For more information on IVI Checkmate, please visit its web site at [http://www.ivicheckmate.com][1].

[1]: http://www.ivicheckmate.com/


Evolve CRM

First Data rolled out a customer relationship management solution yesterday. FDC’s ‘Evolve Suite’, powered by Pegasystems technology, will be offered as an ‘Application Service Provider’. Issuers will use PC browser technology to access the Evolve applications eliminating the need to purchase and maintain an in-house system. The ‘Evolve’ solution, jointly developed by FDC and Pegasystems, supports and automates process management, account handling, and call management for functions such as processing credit applications, managing collections, and handling customer service queries.



Western Union is picking up some competition. San Antonio, TX-based RapidMoney Corp. announced Thursday that its money transfer service is now available in Texas. The firm recently introduced ‘RapidMoney’ in Arkansas and Missouri. In addition to money transfers within and between countries, RapidMoney Corp. says it will shortly introduce additional prepaid services, such as telephone cards, dial tone and cellular service. The firm currently delivers money transfers throughout Mexico and will expand its service to the Caribbean, Central America, South America and Asia.