Retail Up 10.2%

American Express released its annual ‘Top 100 Retailers’ list Monday, that shows the nation’s largest retailers rang up $789.3 billion in sales for 1997, a 10.2% increase over the previous year. It comes as no surprise that Wal-Mart tops the list followed by Sears, Kmart, JC Penney and Dayton Hudson. Analyzing the results by retail sector, drug stores showed solid gains in sales for the second year, while apparel and specialty stores sales rebounded, turning in their best performance in a decade.

1997  RETAIL  SECTOR  SALES

     Drug               +21.2%   Home Improvement   +7.3%
     Department Stores   +5.9%   Supermarkets       +8.7%
     Discount Stores     +9.8%   Apparel/Specialty  +11.5%

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Quest Phone Card Awards

Quest Group International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Teltrust, Inc. announced that it has received two first place awards at the 4th Annual Intele-Card News Prepaid Excellence Awards ceremony held recently in Miami Beach, Florida. Quest received these awards in the categories: Card of the Year and Domestic Retail Card of the Year. Card of the Year, the highest honor of the competition, was presented for a limited edition prepaid phone card created by Quest in conjunction with BellSouth. The card, which was given by BellSouth to friends and supporters of the American Foundation for the Blind, pictures Helen Keller using manual alphabet communication with Alexander Graham Bell. The information on the card was also featured in Braille. Quest’s Student PhoneCard received the award for Domestic Retail Card of the Year. The Student PhoneCard features point-of-sale activation and popular options including voice mail, speed dialing and access to a variety of information services.

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MC Leisure Breaks

Phoenix-based Utell International has paired up with MasterCard to offer leisure travelers added values on 63 hotels throughout North America, Europe and the Caribbean. Running now through Sept. 30 the ‘Leisure Breaks’ program will grant travelers several diverse options for travel within the rapidly emerging trend of compressed vacations. With more than 7,700 hotels in 180 countries Utell offers MasterCard cardholders free room upgrades, complimentary breakfasts, discounts on food or free access to fitness centers.

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Providian’s SF Marathon Winners

With $35,000 in prize money, this year’s Providian San Francisco Marathon attracted many top elite runners, and, for the first time since 1994, runners enjoyed clear blue skies throughout today’s race. Twenty-eight year old Hamid Oubadriss from France captured the men’s title and $10,000 in prize money by completing the 26.2 mile course in 2:23:54 (5:29 mile pace). Twenty-nine year old Salina Chirchir of Kenya dominated the women’s field and finished first with a time of 2:45:36 (6:19 mile pace). Oubadriss, who trains with international elite runners in the running “mecca” of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a personal best record of 2:14, but knew after surveying the course yesterday that this would be one of the more difficult courses he would run in his career. The Providian San Francisco Marathon is staged by the International Management Group (IMG), the largest sports management and marketing company in the world.

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Mondex Rehovet Pilot Update

Technology and services from Amdahl Corporation have made possible the introduction of the world’s most technically advanced Mondex electronic cash implementation in Israel. The Amdahl SmartCard Group was chosen as business consultants, systems integrators, and software and hardware providers for the implementation by Mondex Israel, the company set up to introduce Israel’s Mondex-based electronic payment scheme. With the commencement of the initial phase in May 1998, thousands of Israeli citizens in the university city of Rehovet, 30 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, will be able to use the Mondex “electronic purse” scheme to withdraw and deposit cash via their own personal ATM machines using normal telephone lines connected remotely to Mondex Israel’s host server. They will be able to spend their cash using Mondex smart cards at a variety of the city’s retail outlets, or securely transfer money to other consumers or merchants across telephone lines.

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IFS Shoots for ISO 9000

IFS International, Inc. announced that to further enhance the service provided to its customers and partners, IFS International Inc. has begun the process of obtaining ISO 9000 registration. Euro-Tech International Inc., an Arizona-based corporation that specializes in guiding companies through the ISO 9000 certification process, has been contracted by IFS to provide the Company with the guidance that is needed to obtain registration. Lori Frantzve, who is the President of Euro- Tech Inc., began the process with IFS management on March 9, and was joined by Mr. Terry Burgess, Vice President of Euro-Tech, Europe, who will also be working with the team at IFS. IFS has now begun the compliance process towards ISO 9000-1 accreditation and it is estimated that the full registration process will be completed within eighteen months.

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2 Million Bankruptcies by 2001

While the consumer credit industry is pushing hard this week to get Congress to push out bankruptcy reform legislation before the summer break, VISA released stats Monday projecting the number of personal bankruptcies will exceed 2.2 million by the year 2001. The projection represents a 75% rise over 1997 figures. Ironically the growth rate in personal bankruptcy filings on a year-over-year basis has actually slowed during the first six months of 1998. Nevertheless VISA says total personal bankruptcy filings for the entire year will reach a new record of 1.35 million. VISA also insists that without bankruptcy reform, losses to the U.S. economy will exceed $220 billion between 1997 and 2001.

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IBM & Equifax Extend

IBM announced yesterday that it is extending and expanding its 10-year technology outsourcing agreement with Equifax, the world leader in consumer and business information. The original outsourcing contract was signed in 1993. The new agreement will run to 2008 and, when combined with other existing agreements, represents an aggregate contractual value of approximately $900 million. Under the terms of the agreement, IBM Global Services will manage a majority of Equifax’s world-wide information technology resources, providing data-center management; network voice and data management and business recovery services. Equifax operations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico and other locations will have access to this broad range of information technology services.

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GPS Signs Hancock Bank

Global Payment Systems announced Monday that it has signed an agreement to provide card issuing and merchant processing services to Hancock Bank of Louisiana. Under the terms of the contract, Global will provide Hancock Bank with card issuing services, including card production, authorization, exception processing, system servicing and statement production services. Global will also provide the bank with merchant accounting and point-of-sale transaction processing services.

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VISA Funds Extensity

VISA International led a $14 million round of venture funding yesterday in a startup specializing in electronic expense reporting.  CA-based Extensity Inc.’s operational cost management application suite employs Java-based Web technology to help CFOs and controllers create a highly efficient and fully integrated system for processing travel and entertainment, labor, and materials. Compatible with the data formats used by many card-issuing institutions, including Visa, ‘Extensity Expense Reports’ allows customers to feed credit card data directly into expense reports, eliminating entry errors and increasing employee productivity and reducing administrative costs.

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MasterCard Fraud Fighter

HNC Software and MasterCard International announced Monday an agreement to jointly develop a new fraud detection system, based on neural network modeling technology. By means of a new application of HNC’s proprietary profiling technology, the MasterCard fraud-predictive system will constantly update information with each new transaction, building a detailed profile of each merchant and cardholder. This exclusive use of dynamic merchant profiles to supplement the transaction-based account profiles provides a boost to the predictive precision of the model. By using a variety of models of behavior for each global region, the system will ultimately allow members to examine similar patterns in a given set of countries.  A dozen MasterCard members are participating in the association’s pilot program for the credit card fraud detection module. The first module of the new risk-predictive service will be available in the fourth quarter of this year and will be exclusive to MasterCard and its member institutions. The product can be integrated with an issuer’s existing system or used as a stand-alone fraud detection service.

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