PMT Services Inc., an independent service organization in the merchant processing business, has bought Money Transfer Systems Inc., another such group.

The acquisition of Money Transfer of Clearwater, Fla., adds 5,000 merchant accounts to PMT's rapidly growing portfolio. Nashville-based PMT has bought four independent service organizations since last July, increasing both its merchant account base and its sales staff.

Observers said the deal points to continued consolidation in the merchant acquiring field, where smaller independent service organizations continue to find themselves squeezed.

"This transaction highlights PMT's dual strategies for growth through internal development and acquisition," said Richardson M. Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer.

Last fall, PMT bought American Heritage Bankcard of Chatsworth, Calif., Bancard Inc. of Boulder, Colo., and Retail Systems Consulting Inc. of Youngstown, Ohio.

Including the purchase of Money Transfer Systems, which was announced last week, PMT has gained a total of 23,000 new accounts, representing $3.5 billion in annual charge volume, Mr. Roberts said.

PMT has bought nine companies in 20 months.

Mr. Roberts said the acquisitions have helped PMT generate about 3,500 new accounts a month, up from 600 a month two years ago. The most recent deal will help PMT fetch up to 500 new accounts a month, he said.

PMT acquires merchant relationships and handles credit card transaction processing for them. Mr. Roberts said his goal is to become the second- largest merchant processor in terms of the number of accounts within the next several years.

PMT is one of the largest independent service organizations nationwide, linking up more than 150,000 small businesses with MasterCard and Visa networks. It ranked 12th nationwide in merchant processing volume, according to 1996 numbers from the Nilson Report.

"They are a well-run company," said Paul Martaus, president of Martaus & Associates, Clearwater, Fla. "They have a plan, and they are following that plan."

Mr. Roberts said PMT's strategy is to acquire "entrepreneurial, seasoned management teams."

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