Tuesday , November 20, 2018

Eye on Mobile: Apple Pay’s Growth Surge Continues; Mitek Cool to Buyout Offer

Apple Pay continues to gain strong adoption, Apple Inc. chief executive Tim Cook reported Thursday. Also on Thursday Mitek Systems Inc., a small but prominent provider of software for mobile remote deposit capture and identity verification, gave a decidedly cool response in its first comments about a $425 million buyout offer.

Cook, who reviewed results for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple’s fourth quarter of fiscal 2018 ended Sept. 29, didn’t give a transaction number, but three months ago revealed that Apple Pay passed the 1-billion transaction mark in the fiscal third quarter ended June 30. Now the transaction count apparently is well north of that.

Apple Pay’s “transaction volume tripled year-over-year” in the fourth quarter, Apple CEO Tim Cook says.

“I want to spotlight the exceptional performance of Apple Pay, which is by far the No. 1 mobile-contactless payments service worldwide,” Cook said on a conference call with analysts. “Transaction volume tripled year-over-year, and to put that into perspective, Apple Pay generated significantly more transactions than even PayPal Mobile, with over four times the growth rate.” 

PayPal Holdings Inc. recently reported $57 billion in mobile-payment volume for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up 35% from a year earlier to represent 40% of PayPal’s overall payment volume of $143 billion. PayPal didn’t break out mobile transactions, but said it had 2.5 billion total payment transactions in the third quarter. Forty percent of that would imply approximately 1 billion transactions from mobile devices.

Cook added that with the recent additions of Costco Wholesale Corp.’s 500-plus stores and more than 40 from Neiman Marcus, Apple Pay is now accepted by 71 of the top 100 U.S. merchants and at 60% of U.S retail locations. That latter statistic is the result of U.S. merchants converting to the EMV chip card standard, which has prompted most to deploy chip-reading point-of-sale terminals that also support the near-field communication contactless technology used by Apple Pay. Many merchants, especially small ones, however, have yet to turn on NFC functionality. 

While Apple appears to be making inroads in mobile payments, San Diego-based Mitek is weighing whether to remain an independent company. Rumors about a possible buyout started in early October. ASG Technologies Group Inc., a Naples, Fla.-based business software provider owned by the hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., went public Wednesday with a $10-per-share cash offer, which ASG said represents a 51% premium to Mitek’s share price before news reports started pushing the stock up.

At Mitek’s quarterly earnings call Thursday afternoon, however, chairman Bruce Hansen indicated some tough negotiations lie ahead. Hansen first outlined a four-point plan by which Mitek has to grow its business, a plan he said offers “substantial upside” to Mitek shareholders. 

ASG first approached the company after Mitek announced in August that long-time CEO James DeBello and chief financial officer Jeff Davison would be leaving, according to Hansen.

“We responded by saying we would be open to a discussion with them post our earnings report,” Hansen said. “They decided instead to publicly disclose their proposal yesterday, the day before we announced our earnings results. As our shareholders are well aware, ASG’s proposal offers zero premium to our 52-week high, and it’s also well below the recent price targets set by every analyst that covers Mitek, all of which, by the way, were issued prior to today’s positive earnings report.” 

Mitek’s board of directors has not yet formally responded to ASG’s offer. Hansen said the board “will carefully review and consider the ASG proposal in order to pursue the course of action that is in the best interest of Mitek shareholders.” Mitek won’t have any further comment until that’s done, he said.

ASG could not be reached late Thursday for comment.

Mitek reported that revenue for its fourth quarter of fiscal 2018 ended Sept. 30 increased 63% year-over-year to a record $21 million. The company posted a $2.13 million net loss, but factoring out one-time costs for acquisitions, executive transitions, and other expenses, Mitek reported an adjusted profit of $5.72 million.

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