Cybercash Inc. and Online Resources and Communications Corp. announced plans to offer a real-time Internet payment service.
The companies have agreed to combine their expertise to let consumers make on-line purchases.
Cybercash, based in Reston, Va., will offer links to merchants and its electronic wallet technology, which converts funds debited from a bank account into electronic cash that can be spent on the Internet. Online Resources, based in McLean, Va., will offer connections between banks and consumers wishing to load their Cybercash wallets.
Company executives expect to begin pilot-testing their bank-branded service within weeks, using a financial institution they declined to name.
"This is the first time that we have bridged the two worlds:" home banking and electronic commerce, said Matthew P. Lawlor, chairman and chief executive officer of Online Resources. "It has a lot of symbolic significance."
The agreement is the latest in a string of alliances Cybercash has forged in the financial community, and investors appear to be warming to the company.
Cybercash stock was trading after 3 p.m. Friday at $20.50, up $7.375 for the week, and slightly higher than the $17 the shares fetched just after their initial public offering in February 1996.
The last 12 months have been a wild ride for Cybercash investors. The stock was trading in June at $64.75 a share but dropped as low as $12.25 in recent weeks. In addition, last week, the company announced plans to lay off 10% of its work force, or about 18 people.
William Melton, chairman and founder of the company, said the job trimming would "refocus" the company.
"We grew very rapidly over the last year," he said, "and perhaps hired too quickly. We are refocusing our efforts away from banks and toward merchants this year, and we needed to shift staff to fulfill that."
The company lost about $7.4 million in the last quarter, said Mr. Melton. Analysts said that, unless revenue improves in the short term, the company may need to seek financing to stay in business. Mr. Melton denied that.
Analysts said they believe the stock's performance is influenced by slower-than-expected development of payment mechanisms for Internet commerce.
"It's been difficult to implement systems to do transactions," said Kris Tuttle, an analyst at Soundview Financial Group in Stamford, Conn. "And a lot of people still like to pay using Visa or MasterCard."
However, on a positive note, observers said, Cybercash has kept its promises regarding new products. In the year since its public offering, the company has brought to market Cybercoin and PayNow in addition to its original credit card-based Internet payment service.
"They have delivered the three products they promised," said Mazin Jalili, analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey in Roslyn, Va. "Their basic business model for last year was not to be profitable," he added.
Mr. Melton said the market may have been irrationally exuberant about Internet commerce. "Wherever you have excess hope, you have excess despair," he said.