Breaking up the M&A way

Contact: Ben Kolada

Though previously engaged in a joint venture (JV) named Monitise Americas, mobile banking startup Monitise and Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) have been growing apart. Through a series of moves, the two companies, though still partners, seem to be getting ever closer to completely severing their relationship.

The eventual breakup appears to be spearheaded by Monitise. For just over three years, Monitise and FIS owned a JV named Monitise Americas. However, in November 2011, Monitise brought the JV completely under its own control, perhaps as a prelude to its next major M&A play.

Following the severing of that venture, FIS threw its weight behind Monitise competitor mFoundry, participating alongside MasterCard and existing investors in an $18m round of financing for mFoundry that was disclosed in December 2011. Not only was FIS’s involvement here a competitive slap in the face, but the inclusion of MasterCard in the round put another nail in the coffin, as MasterCard rival Visa and its affiliates have been longtime investors in Monitise.

In response, just three months later, Monitise announced its $173m all-stock acquisition of North American counterpart Clairmail. Clairmail was a direct competitor to mFoundry, similar in both headcount and product portfolio.

With tension mounting, FIS recently announced that it is acquiring the remainder of mFoundry that it doesn’t already own for $120m in cash. If the relationship between FIS and Monitise continues, it certainly won’t be as amicable as before. Although Monitise still called FIS a partner in its most recent annual report (released in September 2012), the feeling may no longer be mutual.

Breaking up the M&A way

Date Event
November 2011 Monitise buys out the remainder of Monitise Americas that it didn’t already own from FIS.
December 2011 FIS invests alongside MasterCard in Monitise competitor mFoundry.
March 2012 Monitise acquires mFoundry rival Clairmail for $173m.
January 2013 FIS acquires the remainder of Monitise/Clairmail competitor mFoundry that it didn’t already own for $120m.

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, 451 Research

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Will mobile payment startups pay off?

-Contact Thomas Rasmussen, Chris Hazelton

In 2006 and 2007, mobile payment startups were a favorite among venture capitalists. The promise of dethroning the credit card companies by bypassing them had VCs and strategic investors throwing hundreds of millions of dollars after such startups. During this time, a few lucky vendors managed to secure lucrative exits. Among other deals, Firethorn, a company backed with just $14m, sold to Qualcomm for $210m and 3united Mobile Solutions was rolled up for $70m as part of VeriSign’s acquisition spree. Recent prices, however, haven’t been anywhere near as rich. Consider this: VeriSign unwound its 3united purchase last month, pocketing what we understand was about $5m. Similarly, Sybase picked up PayBox Solution for just $11.4m, while Kushcash and other promising mobile payment startups have quietly closed their doors.

Last week, Belgian phone company Belgacom took a 40% stake in mobile payment provider Tunz. Tunz has taken in a relatively small $4m in funding since launching in 2007, but with VCs sidelined, we believe this investment was a strategic cash infusion to keep alive the company behind Belgacom’s mobile payment strategy. It may well be a prelude to an outright acquisition. With valuations clearly deflated and venture capitalists nowhere to be seen, we believe mobile service providers are set to go shopping for payment companies. Who might be next?

Yodlee, mFoundry and Obopay are three companies that have made a name for themselves in the world of mobile banking and payments. Each has secured deals with the major banks and wireless companies, but still lacks scale. Further, all of them are facing increased competition from deep-pocketed and patient rivals such as Amazon, eBay’s PayPal and Google’s CheckOut. Still, we believe they are attractive targets for wireless carriers or mobile device makers, who are increasingly on the lookout for additional revenue streams.

In fact, Obopay received a large investment from Nokia last week as part of its $70m series E funding round. Nokia’s portion is unclear, but Obopay tells us the stake gives Nokia a seat on its board. (Additionally, we would note that this investment comes directly from Nokia, rather than its venture arm, Nokia Growth Partners, as has typically been the case). This latest round brings Obopay’s total funding to just shy of $150m. Although we wonder about the potential return for Obopay’s backers in a trade sale to Nokia, the mobile payment vendor would clearly be a great complement to Nokia’s growing Ovi suite of mobile services. (We would also note that Qualcomm put money into Obopay and considered acquiring the company, but instead went with Firethorn.) Likewise, Yodlee and mFoundry’s roster of strategic investors and customers reads like a short list of potential buyers: Motorola, PayPal, Alltel (now Verizon), along with other large banks and wireless providers. Yodlee says it has raised more than $100m throughout its 10-year history, and mFoundry has reportedly raised about $25m.