PMT Services Inc. is at it again.

The Nashville-based independent service organization has acquired a 15,000 merchant account portfolio from UMB Bank, based in Kansas City, Mo.

The latest acquisition, finalized Tuesday, pushes PMT Services' total number of merchant clients to 75,000. It is seen as part of a general consolidation trend in which a handful of credit card processors struggle to capture the remaining quality merchant portfolios.

"This is a fragmented industry that is slowly consolidating," Richardson Roberts, president and chief executive of PMT, said. "This fits perfectly into our strategy. We are building a base of small mom and pop merchants. They fit our demographic."

PMT, which went public in August 1994, has steadily acquired 22 merchant portfolios over the past five years. It has added 20,000 new accounts during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

In the most recent deal, PMT said it paid $13.5 million for UMB's portfolio, which represents the bank's entire merchant processing base and has a charge volume of $1.4 billion.

Mr. Roberts said that PMT is the second-largest independent service organization, after Nova Information Systems Inc.

"The company has a lot of capital," said Mark Hughes, a securities analyst for Equitable Securities Corp., Nashville. "The strategy is to sign and acquire as many merchants as possible and provide good service to those merchants and give their shareholders a good return."

PMT acquired nine portfolios in fiscal year 1995 and five in 1994, Mr. Hughes added.

As part of the deal with UMB Bank, a unit of UMB Financial Corp., PMT said it will provide electronic authorization and payment systems for merchant accounts. First Data Corp., the Hackensack, N.J.-based credit card processing giant, previously processed merchant accounts for UMB Bank, and will continue to do so.

Some analysts feel the outsourcing move makes a lot of sense, since UMB used First Data for processing before the acquisition.

"Every time you change a merchant's relationship, it makes him want to change processors," said Paul Martaus, president of Martaus & Associates, Clearwater, Fla. "PMT needed to maintain First Data or lose customers."

Mr. Martaus also added that PMT needs to keep acquiring merchants that are"rural and probably paper-based," in order to stay competitive.

"There are four or five major or minor organizations in this country in absolute competition with each other," Mr. Martaus said, including the big processors such as First Data, First USA, and National Data Corp., and the smaller ones, such as Nova and PMT. 'There are fewer and fewer quality portfolios left."

UMB Financial Corp. is a $6.3 billion holding company that operates 16 banks, primarily in the Midwest.

Alexander C. Kemper, president and chief executive of UMB Bank, said that bank intends to continue aggressively seeking merchants.

"I am very pleased with this transaction,' Mr.Kemper said. "It will serve us both well, now and in the future."

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