First USA Overhaul

Bank One revealed yesterday it will take a special charge of $725 million against fourth quarter 1999 earnings. More than half of the special charge is directly related to Bank One’s credit card division, First USA. Bank One says $185 million of the special charge involves the write-down of certain assets and other charges at First USA due to the projected earnings decline at the credit card division. The bank pointed to unprofitable marketing and affinity deals and interest-only strips of securitized loans as contributors to the problem. Another $200 million of the special charge is related to the early adoption of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s new consumer credit guidelines. Of that, $176 million represented an increase in provisions for credit losses, reflecting the new guidelines for consumer credit charge-offs. An additional $21 million of non-interest expense for credit card fraud losses is related to the new guidelines requiring a shorter time frame for recognizing fraud losses. As part of its recovery program Bank One projected yesterday it will reduce attrition from 17% to 13% and reduce expenses by 15% at First USA. However profits at the credit card division are expected be off by 30% to 35% for year 2000. Pre-tax credit card return on outstandings may decline to 1.00% in 2000 compared to 2.50% in 1999. Bank One also indicated card outstandings may drop by as much as 5% this year to around $65 billion. Despite the overhaul plans, Fitch IBCA lowered the long-term credit ratings for Bank One yesterday and dropped its rating of First USA from ‘B’ to ‘B/C’. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s took similar actions.

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LVD for VISA Cash

VendTek Systems Inc. announces that it has received certification from Visa International of Miami, Florida, USA., for its smartcard load and vend device. This certification is the culmination of over 15 months of development work, undertaken in close co-operation with Visa, in conceiving, designing, developing and testing a sophisticated, self serve smartcard transaction station. “Visa Cash(TM)” customers in Latin America will be able to load cash onto their smartcard from a credit card, debit card, associated bank account, or through a cash deposit directly at the automated station. Customers will also be able to check their electronic-purse cash balance, review recent transactions, or even purchase a smartcard directly from the station. The LVD(TM) is VendTek’s purpose built solution for Visa International member banks in Latin America wanting to implement a full featured, automated distribution and load network for smartcards.

Smartcards are electronic-purses designed to hold cash or cash equivalent value such as transit credits. Smartcards are intelligent cards that contain a computer chip directly embedded on the card.

VendTek Company President, Paul Brock, comments:

“Visa International’s certification of our smartcard terminal represents a major milestone for VendTek. It is also the first self serve load from cash device certified by VISA International for the TIBC v1.0 smartcard operating system, used by VISA in Latin America. Concurrent with this certification, the Company has already received inquiries from two Visa member banks in Latin America, seeking to purchase LVD(TM) units for pilot testing. The market for this product in Latin America alone is huge. The LVD(TM) is highly sophisticated, secure and flexible. It can be expanded to include other smartcard based products and applications, such as transit, amusement, government social security, university programs and more.”

VendTek Systems Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary VendTek Industries Inc., specializes in developing automated transaction systems, network and host system software, and electronic vending system solutions, for major Canadian, US and international corporations. VendTek has produced solutions for companies in the pre-paid long distance, smartcard, lottery, postal, and transit industries and prepaid cellular.

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E-Debt.com

Another debt exchange marketplace is under development. Akron, OH-based E-Debt Exchange said Tuesday it plans today to launch e-debt.com in March. E-Debt.com says it will offer a real-time exchange of consistently formatted, up-to-date debt portfolios. The site will also offer the latest news and developments in the debt-trading industry. The site’s ‘Just-in-Time-Scrub’ uses the latest available information to eliminate uncollectable debt resulting from bankruptcy, death and bad address information. In addition, debt portfolios posted on the site can be sold in three ways: at price, at auction or through private online negotiations.

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ActivCard Investment

Schlumberger today announced that its Test & Transactions business unit has made a strategic investment in ActivCard S.A..

The $3 million investment, subject to February 9, 2000 approval of ActivCard’s shareholders, provides Schlumberger with 174,825 newly issued shares of ActivCard stock at $17.16 per share. Separately, ActivCard will nominate Irwin Pfister, executive vice president of Schlumberger, to its board of directors, subject to approval by ActivCard shareholders at its annual meeting planned in May 2000.

“ActivCard’s digital identity technology is a strategic component in the Schlumberger smart card-based corporate ID solution for physical and network access, which the company began implementing in five key international locations in 1999 using an internal LDAP directory and Entrust Technology’s PKI technology,” said Ashok Belani, vice president of Business Development at Schlumberger Test & Transactions. By delivering smart card-based digital identity to ensure user authenticity, the companies’ e-business systems provide secure access control, user authorization, data integrity, data confidentiality, and non-repudiation. Schlumberger has been providing smart cards to ActivCard for several years.

ActivCard is a key partner to Schlumberger in the provision of corporate ID security solutions.

About ActivCard

ActivCard S.A. (EASDAQ: ACTV) develops, markets and supports software and related products that provide or enable authentication, electronic certification and digital signatures for use on the Internet or in network systems, services and applications. ActivCard has corporate headquarters in Fremont, CA; Suresnes, France; and Singapore. Further information is available at (510) 574-0100, e-mail: info@activcard.com and web site: [www.activcard.com][1].

About Schlumberger

Schlumberger Test & Transactions provides smart card-based solutions; semiconductor equipment and services; and corporate IP and network solutions to customers throughout the world. It is a business unit of Schlumberger Limited, an $11.8 billion global technology services company. Additionally information is available at .

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

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Day Triggers

Credit card marketing has been taken to a new level of sophistication as Experian yesterday introduced ‘Day Triggers’. Designed to identify prime candidates for pre-approved credit offers, the streamlined prescreen is now equipped to target consumer credit activity by identifying the number of days since a “triggering event” (a new consumer initiated credit activity), providing a unique speed-to-market triggering and processing solution. The new service is a significant enhancement to Experian’s ‘Smart Triggers’ which offered credit activity-based triggering months after it occurred. With ‘Day Triggers’ businesses will now have the ability to speed up prospect mailings with fresh names every week, ultimately benefiting from increased response rates which have been declining over the past three years.

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The BigFNI MasterCard

The BigFNI.com announced yesterday it has entered into a deal to offer a co-branded MasterCard with Citibank and has picked up $5 million in equity funding as a result. BigFNI.com says it will provide a variety of consumer credit and insurance products to its online customers using proprietary credit rating and screening software. The start-up will derive its revenues from fees charged for customer solicitation, credit analysis, and underwriting efforts that culminate in qualified applicants being referred to partnered banks and insurance companies. The BigFNI.com is affiliated with TheBigHub.com, The BigStore.com, The BigCompare.com, The BigRX.com, and The BigBallot.com.

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Card Hacker

CT-based eUniverse, Inc. confirmed Monday the theft of customer credit card numbers from the company’s CD Universe subsidiary, an online retailer of music CDs. The firm says it was contacted, via fax, in December by a person claiming to possess thousands of CD Universe customer files and demanding $100,000 ransom in exchange for not posting the information on the Internet. The New York Times reported yesterday that more than 300,000 credit card numbers were involved. The FBI was notified over the weekend when eUniverse learned that 25,000 stolen card numbers from CD Universe were posted on a Web site called: ‘Maxus Credit Card Pipeline’. The FBI, which initially became involved in December, shut down the Web site Sunday. The hacker, named Maxim, reportedly sent an email to the New York Times boasting how he exploited a flaw in CD Universe’s credit card processing software. The hacker described himself as a 19 year old from Russia. eUniverse said it has retained a major technology security firm to review its security procedures. CyberCash issued a press release yesterday denying its ‘ICVERIFY’ product was involved.

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ABS 99 Review

Fitch IBCA said yesterday that 1999 will be hard year to beat for credit card asset-backed securities issuers and investors. Credit card charge-offs beat a steady path downward, issuers raked in record amounts of excess spread, and consumers, benefiting from widespread economic strength, consistently paid off larger portions of their card bills each month and finally curbed the urge to file bankruptcy. However Fitch noted that its latest ‘Credit Card Performance Index’ show serious delinquencies extending their upward trends and chargeoffs moving higher in step during the year’s final months. Rising delinquencies will continue to translate into higher chargeoffs in the coming months, although the full impact may be partially dampened by the declining bankruptcy trend. Nonetheless, other key performance variables, particularly excess spread, remain very strong. As such, card-backed securities investors remain well protected from a credit standpoint even if delinquencies and chargeoffs trend upward from current levels.

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Chase & NatWest

Chase Merchant Services and National Westminster Bank are forming a strategic alliance to provide credit card acceptance services for corporations who want to centralize their international credit card processing activities. The alliance is intended to provide an opportunity to increase business volumes significantly by joining Chase’s major international corporate customer base with NatWest’s extensive multi-currency capability and experience as the first multi-currency global card acquirer. Corporate customers of the alliance will be able to accept card transactions in 145 currencies across the world and will also be able to receive reimbursement in up to 22 settlement currencies. This will benefit multinational companies that trade internationally across the globe, but who want to receive settlement for their trading activities in, for example, their own currency. Chase Merchant Services and NatWest will jointly promote the alliance’s service to both new and existing customers. CMS and NatWest Merchant Services together process 3.2 billion card transactions per year with a total value of over $220 billion.

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MBNA’s Banner Year

MBNA reported that net income topped $1 billion for calendar year 1999 compared to $776 million for 1998. Total managed loans at year end ’99 were $72.3 billion compared to $59.7 billion for year end ’98. Managed loans increased $5 billion during the fourth quarter. MBNA said it signed 400 new affinity card deals during 1999. For the full year, MBNA added 14.8 million new customers representing 12.5 million new accounts. Delinquency on total managed loans was 4.45% at Dec. 31, 1999 compared to 4.62% at Dec. 31, 1998. Charge-offs for 1999 were 4.33% compared to 4.31% for 1998. MBNA’s net interest margin stood at 7.42% for 1999 compared to 7.47% for 1998. MBNA said its earnings record shows an average increase of 25%, in each of the 36 quarters or nine years since the company went public.

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ePocketPay

eConnect has entered into a Joint Venture with Pilot Island to develop the ePocketPay which will enable hand held wireless Internet Cash Payments.

Pilot Island, an industry leader in developing software products and accessories for the Palm Top computing market, is a wholly owned subsidiary of International Digital Holding

The Patented ePocketPay will hold ATM card, credit card and charge card information. When effecting an Internet Cash Payment, the user will simply input their bank assigned PIN. The Pocket Pay will then send the wireless transaction payment to the LTS for bank processing. Applications range from cash payments to open stock brokerage accounts to Internet cash bill payments.

Pilot Island will provide it’s technical knowledge of the Palm Pilot to fast track develop the handheld ePocketPay which will both effect wireless Internet cash payments plus act as a wireless voice phone. eConnect and Pilot Island will share the Internet merchant fees generated by the ePocketPay.

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Dolan Buys Hogan Info

Dolan Media Company announced today it acquired Hogan Information Services Co., the nation’s largest public records gatherer, from First Data Corporation.

The transaction was approved by the Federal Trade Commission at year’s end. Purchase price and details were not announced.

Hogan Information gathers public records across the country on a daily basis, adds them to its very large historical databases, and sells the information to large credit-granting customers such as banks, credit bureaus and credit card issuers, and to marketing companies.

The company currently gathers approximately 50,000 new records each business day. Its primary database now contains more than 75 million records including bankruptcies, civil judgments, evictions, criminal records from some jurisdictions, and federal, state and county tax liens.

Hogan maintains its database using the nation’s largest local public records gathering network using approximately 300 correspondents in 30 states. It also uses electronic data-gathering for some types of federal and state records and provides national coverage of certain types of public records.

The deal includes a multi-year data licensing agreement between Dolan Media and First Data.

The announcement was made jointly by James P. Dolan, president and chief executive of Dolan Media, and Robert Myers, Senior Vice President of First Data.

Dolan said Hogan Information would remain in Oklahoma City. He said Hogan would become a sister company to Dolan Media’s Banko subsidiary, which is the nation’s largest seller of bankruptcy information.

“This is an excellent strategic fit between two companies that together will provide the credit industry with critical information very quickly and at very low cost,” Dolan said.

Dolan said Hogan Information would become its primary national gathering and processing center for public records. He said there are no plans to change the name from Hogan Information. Banko will remain a separate operation in Minnesota, he said.

Robert D. Gundling, a Dolan Media corporate development executive, was named president of Hogan reporting to Brian Long, president of Dolan Media’s National Group. Gundling has relocated from Northern California to Oklahoma City.

Long said Hogan will continue to serve large-scale credit grantor customers and Banko will concentrate on developing new value-added information products and services for the credit and marketing industries. Although the two companies will cooperate in many areas, Long said, maintaining them separately will allow for more specialization in their respective strategic roles.

Long noted the Hogan transaction, coupled with Dolan Media’s new licensing agreement with (Nasdaq: IUSA), provides much richer, deeper databases for the company’s business customers. Last December Dolan Media entered into large-scale, long-term data licensing agreements with infoUSA allowing each company access to the other’s extensive databases — Dolan’s with more than 100 million public records, and infoUSA’s with records on more than 12 million U.S. businesses and 200 million individuals.

In addition to mutual access to data, the relationship includes future product development and a small equity investment by infoUSA in Dolan Media.

Hogan Information began in the 1980s as a public records data department of The Journal Record daily business newspaper in Oklahoma City when it was owned by the Hogan family. In 1990 the information company became a separate business run by Blake Hogan. In 1995 the Hogan family sold The Journal Record to Dolan Media, and in 1996 the family sold Hogan Information to First Data.

Closely held Dolan Media, based in Minneapolis, is a leading provider of highly targeted, specialized business information products and services. Its National Group specializes in large-scale and rapid gathering of public records information of critical importance to customers in the fields of credit, law, finance and construction. Dolan Media’s Regional Group operates daily and weekly business newspapers in 17 cities across the country.

Dolan said that Hogan Information would take over local public records gathering activities at many of the company’s newspapers, which in turn would develop new print and electronic information products and services using Hogan data.

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