The initial public offering of Carreker-Antinori last week raised the profile-and the war chest-of a company bent on transforming the nation's payment system from paper to electronics.

The Dallas company and some of its stockholders sold 5.1 million shares to the public, at $11 apiece. The company said it would use the proceeds- about $36 million-for international expansion and general corporate purposes.

The stock jumped to as high as $12.50 a share during the first day of trading but then lost ground, closing Friday at $10. The offering was underwritten by BancAmerica Robertson Stephens, Hambrecht & Quist, and Lehman Brothers.

Carreker-Antinori, formed last year by a merger between Carreker Group and Antinori Software Inc., has been a vocal proponent of electronic check presentment. The process aims to speed up the exchange of check information between banks and reduce fraud.

The company's most visible role is as the manager of the Electronic Check Clearing House Organization, or Eccho, a not-for-profit rulemaking trade group for electronic check presentment that counts 60 banks as members. The company also manages Payment Solutions Network Inc., a telecommunications switch partly owned by 18 banks that transacts electronic check presentments.

Last year, more than half of the company's $40.5 million of revenue came from consulting services for big banks. The company serves about two-thirds of the nation's top 100 banks.

It also sells software for float management and electronic check presentment. The merger with Antinori added check fraud detection software to the Carreker products.

As a cheerleader for electronic check presentment, Carreker-Antinori faces few direct competitors. But some larger companies, such as the network provider Sterling Commerce and the bill payment provider Checkfree, offer some of the same software products as Carreker-Antinori.

Whether electronic check presentment will emerge as the industry's cure for paper checks is open to debate. Debit cards and Internet-based payments may alleviate the need for mechanisms to deal with paper checks.

James Wells, a director at Electronic Funds and Data, Southhampton, N.Y., said a growing number of bankers are declaring war on the paper check and see electronic check presentment and check imaging systems as "Band- Aid" approaches.

He added, "You still have 65 billion checks per year, and it is folks like Eccho who can start to change that."

Jack Stephenson, principal at McKinsey & Co., New York, said investments in presentment systems didn't make much economic sense for most banks because of unequal benefits between paying and collecting banks. But he said banks may soon view electronic presentment as the first step toward converting paper checks into electronic items.

"My sense is that you will start to see some real momentum around this," he said. "If you assume that the top six or seven banks will back it, then I think there's a strong possibility that it will take off. If it does, then I'd think Carreker will be well-positioned."

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