PMT Services Inc. has bought a bank portfolio in a deal meant to bolster internal growth.

The Nashville-based independent service organization an-nounced Monday that it had bought the merchant portfolio of a subsidiary of Zions Bancorp., Salt Lake City.

The portfolio, belonging to Zions First National Bank, has $1 billion annual charge volume and 4,000 merchants.

PMT has also entered a long-term agreement under which it will serve new merchant accounts generated by Zions' 145-branch network in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada.

Experts said PMT's latest acquisition is in line with its strategy of allying itself with banks and seeking deals that would help it grow internally rather than exclusively through acquisitions.

"This represents PMT's continued push into the bank portfolio acquisition market," said chairman and chief executive officer Richardson M. Roberts.

The company "can offer economies of scale to those banks looking to form alliances with companies that won't compete with them for traditional bank business."

Mr. Roberts said he expects Zions' sales staff, which will stay in place, to bring in 1,000 new accounts per month. First Data, which had processed accounts for the bank, will continue to do so.

"PMT has been criticized by Wall Street for not building a strong market franchise," said Liam Carmody, president of Carmody and Bloom Inc., Ridgewood, N.J.

Instead, Mr. Carmody said, PMT has been seen as building its business through portfolio acquisitions, which does not lend itself to strong merchant loyalty. PMT is "focusing now on building a market franchise," he added.

The most recent deal resembles one struck last March, in which PMT acquired the 15,000 accounts of UMB Bank, Kansas City, Mo., for $13.5 million in cash.

Although terms of the Zions deal were not disclosed, Mr. Carmody estimated that PMT had paid about $10 million for the portfolio. Mr. Roberts said only that his company paid less than the $13.5 million for the UMB portfolio, and paid in cash.

"It's their classic target market," said Paul Martaus, president of Martaus and Associates, Clearwater, Fla. "PMT will manage the merchants, but the branch structure will act as a sales agent to develop PMT's growth."

"We believed this would provide better products and services for our customers," said Dale M. Gibbons, chief financial officer of Zions First National Bank. PMT has "a more state of the art offering" than the bank's, he said.

The deal, Mr. Gibbons said, will let the bank "keep close tabs" on its merchant customers and "confirm their needs are being met."

With 130,000 accounts, PMT has announced 11 acquisitions so far in its fiscal 1997, which ends July 31.

In related company news, PMT said Charles R. Burtzloff, chairman and CEO of Cardservice International, has left its board of directors and will be succeeded by consultant Stephen Douglas Kane.

Mr. Kane, 53, was formerly vice chairman and chief administrative officer of First Financial Management Corp., now part of First Data Corp.

Mr. Burtzloff said he left PMT's board to avoid any conflict of interest arising from a 50% equity sale of his company to First Data. The sale closed last Friday.

Mr. Martaus said industry speculation put First Data's 50% stake in Cardservice at $156 million.

Last May, Mr. Burtzloff sold 34,000 shares, the majority of his holdings in PMT.

Mr. Burtzloff said he sold his shares after merger talks between PMT and Cardservice fell through, and to take advantage of high market prices. At that time, PMT was fetching around $30 a share.

Cardservice International is an Agoura Hills, Calif., independent service organization with 80,000 merchant accounts. The company has specialized in management of high-risk merchant accounts.

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