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First Data Sees Trouble Down Under

SYDNEY, Australia-Payment services giant First Data Corp. may see its offer to buy Australia's largest independent ATM operator topped by a rival suitor.

The chairman of taxi-cab payments company Cabcharge said over the weekend he plans to submit a bid of $250 million Australian ($194 million U.S.) to acquire Cashcard Australia Ltd., operator of 5,600 machines, half the independently-owned machines in the country.

The offer is believed to be higher than that the non-public bid by First Data, which is awaiting antitrust approval on the deal from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The Cabcharge executive said last weekend he has held preliminary talks with Cashcard in preparation for making a formal bid. First Data, the parent of Western Union, has agreed to sell off its stake in U.S. ATM network NYCE in exchange for U.S. antitrust approval to acquire payments processor Concord EFS.

Check Processors Consolidate

NEW YORK-The Clearing House completed its acquisition of Western Payments Alliance's (WesPay) check services business, helping create a national powerhouse in the check processing business.

The deal follows the Clearing House's acquisition of Chicago Clearing House Association six weeks before and brings the separate operations under the roof of the National Check Exchange, a year-old clearing operation that will be one of the largest in the country.

The NCE is leveraging the new Check 21 law by offering itself as a full service manager of the paper-to-electronic payments process.

The Clearing House, the oldest payments processor in the country, created the NCE last year by combining its 150-year-old check settlements business with separate clearinghouses in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

The NCE now represents annual check volume of 3.1 billion with offices in Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

AFFN Signs 3rd-Party Services Deal

TAMPA, Fla.-The Armed Forces Financial Network, which is half-owned by defense CUs, said it has signed a multi-year contract with Fifth Third Bank's Processing Solutions unit to provide network switching services.

AFFN, a worldwide ATM and point-of-sale network for U.S. military personnel, processes more than 150 million transactions a year. In conjunction with the contract, Fifth Third Bank also joined the Association of Military Banks of America, which makes it an AFFN member.

AEAFCU To Open In-Store Branch

YUMA, Ariz.-AEA FCU said it plans to open a branch in the new Albertson's store being built on the west side of town.

Construction on the full-service branch, to include ATM and night drop, will begin in the next couple of weeks and be completed by the first part of May.

The credit union is also involved in several other construction projects, including a storage facility adjacent to the credit union and a renovation of its headquarters.

American 1 In House Re-warming

JACKSON, Mich.-American 1 FCU held a grand opening for its newly remodeled headquarters.

The 54-year-old credit union is celebrating the opening with free refreshments and a $50 savings bond give-away every Friday during the month of January.

The $1-million renovation officially opened in December, after seven months of construction by local contractor O'Harrow Construction Co.

The $200-million credit union's new home mirrors the American 1 Resource Center across the street, which houses the credit union's training facility and administrative offices.

AFCU Buys Portable Memory Sticks

AUSTIN, Texas-Austin FCU said it has signed with Research Triangle Software to implement the company's CryptoStick technology, a portable memory device with encryption technology.

The $25-million credit union plans to use the CryptoStick to share internal documents among its board and management.

The CryptoStick is a portable encryption device small enough to fit on a key chain and comes loaded with software to keep its fields secure and protected, as well as enabling private Internet browsing, mobile e-mail and file synchronization.

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