MovieFone Hits DC

AOL MovieFone and American Express invaded Washington D.C. this week with the launch of a moviegoer frequency program backed by both film distributors and theater chains. First launched in New York City last March, moviegoers in the D.C area will earn a complimentary ticket for every ten purchased through MovieFone with an AmEx Card. The program will be available at Loews Theatres and Cineplex Odeon Theatres. Participating studios include Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Universal Pictures, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Dreamworks, MGM/UA, New Line Cinema, Miramax, and Paramount Pictures.


ISO Acquisition

Long Island, N.Y.-based Merchant Services Inc., confirmed this morning it has purchased a significant portfolio of merchant accounts from an independent sales organization based in Dallas. Under terms of the agreement, Merchant Services acquired 8,500 merchant accounts for a cost of approximately $5 million. These 8,500 customers will supplement Merchant Services Inc.’s existing portfolio of over 30,000 merchants. MSI says the acquisition will grow the company’s annual revenues by 25% to $12.5 million. The firm has an annual processing volume of $1.2 billion.


TNS Record

PSINet’s Transaction Network Services unit reported this morning that its system carried over 585 million transactions in December, averaging about 19 million transactions per day, and exceeding six billion for all of 1999. During peak hours, its eCommerce network transported over 600 transactions per second. The peak of traffic was reached on December 23rd, when it carried almost 24 million transactions. The busiest days for top petroleum processors were December 30th and 31st. TNS says ATM transactions were running 25% above normal during the holiday break.


Maytag Man Gets Smart

Payment card access to appliances via the Internet may soon be a reality. Maytag Corp. announced this week it has formed a strategic alliance with Corp. Under terms of the deal, Maytag will take a substantial minority ownership position in e-Vend. Maytag says e-Vend’s technology for processing credit, debit and private label gift cards via the Internet will accelerate Maytag’s Internet strategy to develop and market smart appliances with ubiquitous connectivity.


BofA Merchant Services

Bank of America announced Wednesday a new head for its Merchant Services Division. Lorraine Stimmel, currently head of Corporate Diversity and Work/Life, will assume the position immediately. Stimmel replaces Sharif Bayyari, who chose to leave Bank of America to pursue personal endeavors effective yesterday, Jan 5. Stimmel has more than 26 years experience with Bank of America, serving in consumer banking, operations, technology and personnel divisions. She will report to Jim Hulihan, head of Commercial Card Products and Services.


UICI Lawsuit

Hoffman & Edelson announced it has filed a class action lawsuit for violations of the federal securities laws in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas against UICI (NYSE: UCI) and two of its highest officers, on behalf of all persons who purchased UICI common stock between May 5, 1999, and December 9, 1999, inclusive. Case No. 3-99CV2860-X.

The Complaint charges that UICI and two of its officers violated Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Complaint alleges that defendants issued materially misleading financial statements which overstated corporate earnings by recording inadequate reserves for credit card losses at UICI’s United CreditServ subsidiary.

The Complaint further alleges that one of the defendants utilized his inside information regarding the artificial inflation of the Company’s stock price to sell significant amount of his personal UICI stock holdings.

If you purchased UICI common stock during the May 5, 1999, through December 9, 1999, time period, you may wish to join the action. You may move the court to serve as a lead plaintiff on or before February 15, 2000.

Hoffman & Edelson represents individuals and business entities in consumer, antitrust and securities fraud litigation.


Mobile Smart Card Banking

Schlumberger, Microcell and National Bank of Canada announced yesterday they are teaming up to deliver North America’s first wireless financial services application. The cornerstone of this new SIM toolkit-based service is the Schlumberger ‘Cyberflex Simera’ card. Using a simple menu-driven interface instead of keying number sequences, Microcell subscribers with ‘Phase 2+’ compatible phones will be able to check bank account balances, lines of credit and credit cards, plus their most recent bank account and credit card transactions, any time, anywhere. The multi-application architecture of the Cyberflex mobile solution offers Microcell and NBC the potential to add more downloadable service applications after deployment. The new service will be commercially available next year.


MBNA – Dover Downs

Dover Downs and MBNA have extended and expanded their affinity credit card and sponsorship agreement. Under the revised agreement MBNA will will add sponsorship of the newly scheduled NASCAR ‘Craftsman Truck Series’ race at Dover in September, 2000. The agreement also extends the relationship through 2002 and, in the case of the fall NASCAR ‘Winston Cup’ and ‘Busch Series’ races at Dover, through 2003.


Sears 4Q Projections

Sears, Roebuck and Co. reported this week that it expects fourth quarter earnings before non-comparable items to increase at a high-teen to low-twenty percentage rate over last year’s $1.48 per share due to improved performance in its full-line stores and continuing strength in the company’s credit business.

Based on these current trends, the company also is revising its full-year outlook for earnings per share, anticipating an increase at a high single- digit to low-teen percentage rate excluding non-comparable items.

“Customers continue to recognize and respond to Sears strong value proposition, which is supported by integrated marketing and merchandising initiatives,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arthur C. Martinez. “At the same time, we are seeing improved margin performance in our full-line stores, strong performance in our international and credit businesses as well as solid results from our cost containment measures, which more than offset soft performance in our services segment.”


The company announced total domestic store revenues for the five weeks ending January 1, 2000 were $4.52 billion. Comparable domestic store revenues decreased 0.6 percent. Total domestic store revenues increased 1.2 percent, excluding the impact of the company’s divestiture of HomeLife. On a reported basis, revenues were 0.2 percent below revenues of $4.53 billion for the five weeks ending January 2, 1999.

“In contrast to last year’s high level of promotional activity during the fourth quarter, we adopted a more focused promotional plan in order to deliver stronger margin performance, particularly in our apparel business,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arthur C. Martinez. “Throughout the holiday season, we offered customers the values they were looking for on the merchandise they wanted without significantly increasing our marketing or promotional costs. Sales were particularly strong in home appliances, electronics, home fashions, fine jewelry and the infants’ and toddlers’ category. In addition, we were very pleased with our Internet sales, which significantly exceeded expectations.”

Through its network of more than 850 full-line stores, 2,100 specialty stores and on-line offerings, Sears provides apparel, home and automotive products and related services for families throughout the country.

Sears, Roebuck and Co.
5 Weeks 48 Weeks

1999 Domestic Store Revenues $4,523,400,000 $28,093,200,000
1998 Domestic Store Revenues 4,531,500,000 28,673,700,000
Percent Change (0.2)% (2.0)%
Comparable Domestic Stores
Percent Change (0.6)% 1.8%

1999 Total Revenues $5,674,500,000 $38,058,100,000
1998 Total Revenues 5,589,900,000 38,488,300,000
Percent Change 1.5% (1.1)%