The top executive of Green Dot Corp. said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. would not play a role in operating the bank holding company the prepaid card provider is trying to buy if the deal is approved.
Green Dot, which plans to go public, disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this month that it had issued 2,208,552 shares of class A common stock to Wal-Mart, fueling speculation the retailer was indirectly trying to gain a toehold in banking after failed attempts to do so three years ago.
"The equity interest, in and of itself, doesn't change the business relationship" between Green Dot and Wal-Mart, Steve Streit, Green Dot's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in an interview Wednesday.
In February Green Dot filed an application with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to purchase Bonneville Bancorp, a Utah bank holding company, for $15.65 million.
The shares issued to Wal-Mart will represent less than 1% of the combined voting power of Green Dot's outstanding class A and class B common stock after the offering, according to the SEC filing. Wal-Mart has agreed to not exercise its voting power on its own, Streit said. Green Dot, of Monrovia, Calif., issued the shares as part of an extension of an existing relationship between it, Wal-Mart and GE Money Bank.
Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment. The Bentonville, Ark., retailer ditched efforts to charter an industrial loan company in 2007 in the face of stern opposition from the banking industry.
Green Dot sells its cards and reload services at about 50,000 retail locations, and since 2007 it has been the exclusive provider of general-purpose reloadable cards sold at Wal-Mart under the retailer's MoneyCard program. GE Money Bank, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., issues the cards.
The three companies extended their relationship in May, working out a new contract that expires in 2015. GE Money remains the exclusive issuer of MoneyCard cards and Green Dot remains the exclusive provider of packaging, call center operations and other portfolio management services, Streit said.
John Grund, a partner with First Annapolis Consulting in Linthicum, Md., said he does not view Wal-Mart's stake in Green Dot as a new gateway into banking.
"I think this is much more about the strategic relationship between Wal-Mart and Green Dot than it is about any backdoor way of getting into banking," Grund said. "It's the largest partner of Green Dot, drives a ton of volume, and this is just a way of aligning incentives and creating value by bringing a lot to the table in terms of the scale that Wal-Mart" provides.
Green Dot expects to hear a decision about its application for Bonneville Bancorp in the third quarter, Streit said. Owning the holding company, which operates the $33.7 million-asset Bonneville Bank in Provo, Utah, would allow Green Dot to issue its prepaid cards directly to consumers and cut costs.
"It gives us more control over the product," Streit said.
Also in February, Green Dot announced in a prospectus filing with the SEC that it planned to raise up to $150 million through an initial public offering.