Cardtronics Inc. executives cast their company as a potential beneficiary of financial reform that, as proposed, would require issuers to attach more than one unaffiliated payment network to debit cards.
Though the Federal Reserve Board's rules won't be announced until April, the Houston ATM operator stands to have more options for choosing among payment networks that enable it to receive higher interchange and charge it lower fees, Steve Rathgaber, its chief executive, said.
"The regulatory drama of the past year in the United States served to create an unusual environment for the payments industry," Rathgaber said on a conference call with analysts Thursday. But "there does not appear to be any regulation of our revenue sources, nor any regulation of our operating procedures. … That's good for us."
Additionally, retail banks have hinted at raising fees attached to debit cards as a response to restrictions that would affect debit interchange revenue for banks with more than $10 billion of assets. Rathgaber said that could drive consumers away from cards, and toward cash.
Profit was up 375%, to $8 million, for the fourth quarter from a year earlier, driven by growing revenue and higher margins, Cardtronics announced Thursday. Revenue increased 8%, to $134.7 million.
Cardtronics said recent deals with prepaid providers have also helped its revenue, as well as deals to put banks' brands on its automated teller machines.
Univision Communications Inc. launched a media campaign in late January for its prepaid card, touting its partnership with Cardtronics' Allpoint surcharge-free network.
Cardtronics said its earnings growth is a sign that it's benefiting from an acquisitive streak that lasted much of the past decade.
From 2001 to 2007, Cardtronics made 15 acquisitions, spending about $500 million, much of which it borrowed.
"That's a process that really got worked through in 2008 and 2009," Chris Brewster, Cardtronics' chief financial officer, said. "It's really here, in 2010, that you are starting to see the real profitability and the real potential."
Recently, Cardtronics also reorganized its debt to lower its interest, he said.
Branding opportunities, wherein banks enter agreements to place their names on Cardtronics ATMs, aided Cardtronics' bottom line, as well.
Roughly 45% of the company's machines are available for such deals.
"If you go to a CVS drugstore in New York City, you will see a Sovereign Bank ATM. It has the Sovereign Bank trade name on it. It has their screens. But we own and operate that ATM," Brewster said. "We have the contract with CVS and Sovereign Bank has a separate contract with us."
Cardtronics also has a deal with PNC Financial Services Group Inc. to place PNC's brand on 135 ATMs in CVS Caremark Corp. stores across Indiana.
Cardtronics also acknowledged some obstacles it faces, such as regulation in Mexico that allows ATM operators to collect only interchange or surcharge fees. The company recently added about 2,500 ATMs in the country to its Allpoint network.
"They are really scaling back their growth in the meantime," said Christopher Mammone, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities.
Cardtronics shares rose 6.7% Friday, to $18.90.