Ideon Group Inc., the parent of SafeCard Services, took a beating on the New York Stock Exchange last week after reporting poor results from new business ventures and lower-than-expected earnings per share.
The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company said early response to its cobranded PGA Tour Partners credit card issued by SunTrust Bankcard, in Orlando, Fla., and to Family Protection Network, which tracks lost children, was significantly lower than anticipated.
Ideon said it will reduce those programs' marketing expenses for the rest of the second quarter and early third quarter while it assess product designs as well as distribution channels.
As a result of the low response rates and their effect on revenues, the company said previous 1995 earnings estimates of 60 to 8O cents a share will not be achieved.
Moving to bolster its stock price, the company said that its board of directors has reinstated a stock repurchase program authorizing the company to buy up to 2.5 million shares of common stock on the open market.
The stock tumbled to $8.625 on May 26, down from $15.50 the preceding day. By June 1, the price had rebounded to $9.625. The price had been declining steadily from a high of $20.625 on Feb. 28.
The buy-back program, which ended last Oct. 31, authorized the company to purchase six million shares, of which 3.5 million had been previously purchased.
"While we are clearly disappointed by the initial response to our market introductions of PGA Tour Partners and Family Protection Network, we are in the process of diligently evaluating and executing appropriate corrective actions," said Paul G. Kahn, Ideon's chairman and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement.
William J. Moore, president and chief executive of SunTrust Bankcard, which issues the PGA card, said the companies were hoping for over $1 billion in receivables , but "the drive off the first tee went in the sand."
Even so, he thinks Ideon, which is responsible for the marketing expenses, "can turn it around."
"We feel we still have a very viable card and we will fine tune it until we get the response we expected."
Mr. Kahn said Ideon's core card registration business, SafeCard Services, and two recent acquisitions, Wright Express and National Leisure Group, are "on track and the values of these units are growing."
Compounding matters, Ideon announced on June 1 yet another lawsuit brought against it by Jeffrey Wagner, the lawyer represents Peter Halmos, SafeCard's former chairman.
Mr. Halmos has been filing suits against SafeCard regularly since 1992, when he was ousted from the company which he founded in 1969. Mr. Halmos is not named as plaintiff in this latest court battle.
The new lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Chicago, alleges that Ideon and other companies inflated the company's stock through misleading filings and releases of information.
Holly Anderson, an Ideon spokeswoman, said the lawsuit "is absolutely false and ridiculous."
The plaintiff, Richard Bauer, bought 200 shares in the company over the past six months, said David M. Wells, a partner at Mahoney Adams & Criser, the Jacksonville, Fla., law firm representing Ideon.
"I don't know his motivation or the full extent of his connection with Halmos, except for a mutual affection for same lawyer," he said, "but the suit is similar to litigation pending in Florida where Halmos is a defendant.
Mr. Wells said he suspects the suit will be rolled into the one in Florida.