Financial institutions offering home banking services through the Prodigy on-line network expect to benefit from the company's recent sale.
International Business Machines Corp. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold the network to the Grupo Carso investor group last week for about $250 million is cash and stock. The group owns a stake in Mexico's main telephone company.
Operating under the name International Wireless Inc., Grupo Carso plans to extend Prodigy's reach overseas, which sits well with the banks that offer PC-banking services through the network.
"I think this says we have a lot of growth opportunity ahead of us," said William Lansing, chief operating officer and executive vice president of the White Plains, N.Y.-based service.
Catherine Corby, director of electronic delivery at $41.5 billion-asset Barnett Banks Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., said the sale of Prodigy should let the company be "nimbler and more entrepreneurial."
"I think they have a bright future," she said. Barnett has been offering home banking and bill payment services through Prodigy for three years. The bank is one of the more aggressive users of alternative delivery channels. It is one of only a handful of institutions experimenting with interactive television.
Prodigy, the smallest of the three major on-line networks, with about two million subscribers, claims to have the most banking clients.
The company has been suffering a continuing loss of market share to its main competitors, America Online and Compuserv, which have continued to grow as personal computers become more common fixtures in American homes.
Each of Prodigy's competitors has over four million users.
Mr. Lansing said that the new ownership should help the service expand its customer base.
"International Wireless has distribution partners we anticipate working with to advance Prodigy as a worldwide service," he said.
Prodigy's global reach could benefit some of Barnett's clients, said Ms. Corby.
"One thing we learned from our Internet site is that a lot of our customers are living outside the U.S., and would like to be able to access their accounts," she said.
"If we could provide information to people electronically, that would be helpful."
In addition to Barnett, 16 other banks using the Prodigy service, including Citibank, Chemical, and Wells Fargo.