MasterCard Acquires U.K. Payments Giant VocaLink

The deal signals MasterCard's continued penetration of international payments and point-of-sale markets.
Christopher HosfordJuly 21, 2016

MasterCard has staked its claim to a big chunk of the British ATM, direct debit, and mobile payments markets by acquiring 92.4% of VocaLink Holdings for as much as $1.14 billion in cash.

The deal, subject to regulatory approval, calls for a payment of $920 million upfront, and an additional $220 million to VocaLink shareholders based on performance targets, according to MasterCard. VocaLink shareholders — which include Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking, and Royal Bank of Scotland — will retain the remaining 7.6% of the equity for at least three years.

London-based VocaLink operates key technology underlying U.K. payment processes, including ACH direct credits and debits; mobile, Internet, and telephone payment services; and ATM services. With 2015 revenue of $240 million, VocaLink processes more than 11 billion transactions annually, more than half of all payments in the United Kingdom.

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“We’re excited about the opportunity to play a bigger role in payments in the U.K., a very strategic market for us,” said Ajay Banga, president and CEO of MasterCard. “VocaLink is a unique company with outstanding technology, assets, and people. We look forward to investing in and maximizing the technology, and embedding it in our products and solutions, both in the U.K. and around the world.”

MasterCard continues to nab a bigger slice of the global payments business. In addition to its U.K. presence, VocaLink licenses its software and provides ACH services in Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States. In addition, this week, MasterCard inked a five-year deal with United Bank Africa to issue MasterCard credit, debit ,and prepaid cards, as well as point-of-sale and mobile-point-of-sale technology, in 18 new markets in Africa.

British regulators are expected to give ready approval of the deal. This week the country’s Payment Systems Regulator said it encourages competition through greater access by new and smaller banks to payments technology, rather than have payments systems dominated by big players like Barclays and Lloyds, according to The New York Times.

“With more than 11 billion transactions processed in the U.K. last year, VocaLink is one of the largest processors in Europe. But the real strategic value for MasterCard will come from the Faster Payments platform,” said Ron van Wezel, a senior analyst at Aite Group. “The world is moving towards (near) real-time payments. VocaLink already processed 1.2 billion faster payments in the U.K. in 2015 and growth is expected to accelerate.”

The Faster Payments Service is a U.K. banking initiative to reduce payment times between different banks’ customer accounts from three working days, using the long-established BACS system, to typically a few hours, according to Wikipedia.