UPDATE: TSYS completes $1.4 billion purchase of Austin, Texas-based prepaid card firm NetSpend

Woods: Columbus company to absorb the megadeal, then look to grow NetSpend’s business outside U.S.

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 1, 2013 

Credit-card and payment processor TSYS said Monday it has put the finishing touches on its $1.4 billion acquisition of Austin, Texas-based prepaid card firm NetSpend Holdings Inc.

Its the largest purchase in the 30-year history of TSYS, which is headquartered in downtown Columbus, and the first time the local company has bought a publicly traded firm.

“It’s (also) the first time we’ve moved into the prepaid space, and it’s the first time in our 30-year history that we’ve gone to the bond market,” said TSYS President and Chief Operating Officer Troy Woods. “So a lot of firsts, a lot of great things have happened, and a lot of people have worked extremely hard to see this through.”

The Columbus tech company, which now employs roughly 9,000 people worldwide with the addition of 500 NetSpend workers, financed the purchase through the issuance of $550 million in five-year senior notes (loans through the bond market) and $550 million in 10-year notes. The $300 million balance will come from existing cash and a revolving line of credit.

TSYS said it will pay NetSpend’s stockholders $16 per in cash for each share they own. That amounts to 87,500,000 common stock shares. The Nasdaq exchange halted trading of the Texas outfit’s shares before the market’s opening Monday morning. The stock will be delisted.

Woods said TSYS is “comfortable” with the price tag of the purchase and the financing needed to seal the deal. But he also conceded the company will take time to digest the purchase “for the foreseeable future” before considering any other major moves.

“We’re certainly not a company that has any real interest in being significantly levered,” he said. “We feel very comfortable about this leverage point. What we’ve said is we’ll focus on getting some of this debt paid off over the next 12 to 18 months.”

The acquisition, however, gives TSYS a solid piece of a growing market catering to those individuals who either can’t open a bank account — perhaps because of bad credit and bouncing checks — or who simply have decided they will forgo a traditional bank and load their prepaid cards so they can pay as they go.

There are about 68 million such consumers in the United States. Some in the industry call them “unbanked,” while NetSpend President Chuck Harris said his operation prefers the more-positive term of “self banked.”

Harris said Monday that NetSpend, now a subsdiary of TSYS, has just over 3 million active accounts, with about 1.7 million of those using direct deposit.

NetSpend the company racked up revenue of $351 million in 2012. NetSpend the subidiary has estimated it will rack up revenue of $420 million this year. Contributing to that growth is employers, with some turning to the financial tool to pay workers rather than by check or depositing directly to their bank account.

“It’s growing for a lot of reasons,” Harris said. “Banks have made changes in their cost structures, with different legislative actions that have taken place. You’ve got an immigration bill that’s coming. That, I think, could have some interesting effects on who might be a candidate for this product going forward. That’s definitely winds blowing into our sails.”

Harris said NetSpend’s products have nothing to do with credit. It’s about loading cash on a card through one of 130,000 locations across the U.S. or via direct deposit, then using them in ways similar to a debit card.

“The way to think about it is you’re using a debit card with a host of bank-related features that are integrated into a card, which is really an FDIC-insured account,” he said. The acquisition of NetSpend, Woods said, came after internal discussion about ways to diversify TSYS more and find a way to “get a little bit closer to the point of transaction, closer to the consumer” and “try to better control our destiny.”

The deal was announced on Feb. 19, but the exploration stage began about five months before that, with Woods eventually picking up the phone and calling NetSpend Chief Executive Officer Dan Henry to talk about the opportunity.

TSYS Chairman and CEO Phil Tomlinson, in a statement Monday, called it “a transformational day for everyone at TSYS and NetSpend, as this deal brings together two companies with a shared vision and purpose that focuses on meeting the needs of people. It also takes TSYS closer to the consumer than we have ever been before.”

Both Henry and Harris will report to Woods, who said the future for NetSpend ultimately will lead to foreign markets. TSYS already processes credit and debit cards, along with various types of payments, in 80 countries around the globe. That amounts to about 2 billion transactions outside the U.S.

“We want to make sure that we’re doing the right things here and get our arms around everything that needs to be done, and certainly in the right due time figure out the international strategy and entry point,” Woods said. “But I think we all agree that the potential for this business outside the USA is bigger than the USA.”

Henry said there are no plans to reduce NetSpend’s workforce of 500. He said, if anything, it should grow. The prepaid operation employs about 450 in Austin, with 50 more either in Atlanta or San Mateo, Calif.

Of the 9,000 on the TSYS payroll, more than 4,500 earn a paycheck in Columbus.

Shares of TSYS (Ticker: TSS) rose 23 cents, or just under 1 percent, closing at $24.71 apiece in trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $21.10 to $25.06 per share.

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