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MasterCard jumps into UK payments technologies, buys VocaLink for up to $1.14B

ICE Graveyard 21/07/2016 Ingrid Lunden

For those keeping tabs, one more big tech company built and operating in the UK has been snapped up by another company from abroad. Today, MasterCard Inc. announced that it has agreed to acquire 92.4% of VocaLink — the tech giant behind the UK’s ATM, direct debit, and major mobile payments networks — for $1.14 billion: £700 million ($920 million), with the potential for an earn-out of up to an additional £169 million (approximately US$220 million), if performance targets are met.

The remaining 7.6% of the company will continue to be owned by VocaLink’s shareholders for a period of at least three years, said MasterCard in its announcement.

In 2015, VocaLink had revenues of £182 million ($240 million) and processed more than 11 billion transactions.

The deal is the second major exit for a British company this week, after Softbank announced on Monday that it was acquiring chip reference design maker ARM Holdings for $32 billion.

Many have raised the issue of whether more deals will get made now because of the lower value of the British pound in the wake of the “Brexit” vote for the UK to leave the European Union. Softbank’s CEO Masayoshi Son denied this was the case; we’ll ask MasterCard also for a comment on the question.

For now, MasterCard says that it is buying the company to fill out its strategy to be an “active participant in all types of electronic payments and payment flows and to enhance its services for the benefit of customers and partners.” It also says it wants to play a more strategic role in the UK payments ecosystem.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to play a bigger role in payments in the UK, a very strategic market for us,” Ajay Banga, president and CEO, MasterCard, said in a statement. “VocaLink is a unique company with outstanding technology, assets and people. We look forward to investing in and maximizing the technology, and embedding it in our products and solutions, both in the UK and around the world.”

The deal comes as more companies from abroad are looking to tap into payments and the UK’s general embrace of consumerism and spending money. Yesterday we reported that there is evidence that Square is also gearing up to finally open for business here, too.

In addition to operating those three major payments networks of ATMs, BAC-based direct debits and Faster Payments (the mobile tech), which cover transactions made by just about every British resident, VocaLink, which was founded in 2007 and appeared to have no venture backing, also has built other services and for other markets outside of its home country.

They include ZAPP, a mobile payments app that leverages Fast ACH technology; and it also licenses its software and provides services to support ACH activities in Sweden, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

That gives you a sign of how MasterCard may hope to develop its business going forward, too, although it will continue to keep the UK as its focus.

“Today’s announcement is positive news for our partners, customers and employees,” said David Yates, CEO, VocaLink, in a statement. “We will continue to focus on ensuring that the UK systems perform seamlessly, maintaining the highest levels of quality. At the same time, we’ll invest in further innovation to power competitive payments solutions for consumers and businesses around the globe.”

MasterCard said it expects the transaction to be dilutive for up to 24 months after the deal closes. “If the deal closes in early 2017, the company currently estimates the transaction would be 5 cents dilutive to each of 2017 and 2018 earnings per share,” it noted.

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