An important purchase has been announced today. Global payments and security specialist Ingenico has bought a 90% controlling interest in mobile transfer company TransferTo. This will see a combination of their main strengths that could prove a powerful boost for international remittance: Point-of-Sale terminals from Ingenico, and a global airtime transfer network from TransferTo.
Who are the companies involved?
The idea behind TransferTo is very simple, but quite complicated to put into action. The company is busily creating deals with network operators all over the world. Once an operator is connected to the TransferTo network, it enables small value transfers of mobile minutes, or “airtime” to any other operator on the network. The trick is that it’s not the minutes that are transferred – it’s the cash value of those minutes. What that means, basically, is that TransferTo allows you to buy a mobile top-up in one country and send it as cash to another mobile in a different country – using just an SMS.
Using this service, TransferTo focuses almost exclusively on migrant populations from poorer countries who are working abroad. It refers to itself as a “migration curator”, making it easier and more realistic for emigrants to work in other countries, and either send or receive support from people at home.
TransferTo has made quite a few big deals this year, including mobile operators Shaka and KDDI America. Then, in May, it took the important step of making a deal with someone who wasn’t a provider. Visa card provider Plastyc integrated the TransferTo service, enabling Plastyc card holders to top up their mobile minutes – or the minutes of someone living in a different country – from their account.
Ingenico is a French-based company that works in the pretty broad field of “payment solutions”. It offers complete payment solutions, all the way from the customer to the bank, but its traditional and strongest area is in Point-of-Sale payment terminals. It’s one of the three largest providers of Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (EFTPOS) machines in the world. If you’ve ever paid by plastic at the checkout, chances are you’ve used an Ingenico device to do it.
What’s the news?
Ingenico already owned a 35% stake in TransferTo – mostly in the form of an early investment through its venture capital branch. Now Ingenico has decided that TransferTo is a valuable enough asset to boost that to a 90% stake. TransferTo CEO & Managing Director Eric Barbier claims that this investment will be put to use increasing the number of operators that are hooked up to the airtime transfer network.
What we think?
It’s not just the mobile transfer aspect that has attracted Ingenico’s attention here – although I’m sure that was a factor. I would think that the deal struck with Plastyc also had something to do with it. The main source of revenue for Ingenico is in EFTPOS. Credit and debit cards are central to the Ingenico strategy. By investing so heavily in TransferTo, it can now strengthen its position in plastic cards as well as expanding into mobile payments.