Global Payments hasn't hesitated to shell out huge dollars if it provides a quick-strike opportunity to pair technology with multichannel payments in markets where such marriages remain rare.

Its most recent deal, a $1.2 billion deal to acquire the communities and health and fitness verticals of ACTIVE Network from Vista Equity Partners, furthers this strategy by giving Global Payments a way to reach the groups that put on fundraising events such as walkathons and races.

The Dallas-based ACTIVE Network is a marketplace for activities and events, connecting participants with organizers in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia. Its SaaS-based offerings handle data management and analysis that help event organizers drive participation and revenue.

Marathon runners
Charity fundraising events such as marathons don't fit the definition of a traditional merchant, but they do need to accept payments. Adobe Stock

"This dovetails with our thesis to expand internationally and into vertical markets where we see an opportunity to increase payments," said Jeff Sloan, CEO of Global Payments, in a conference call Thursday morning to announce the acquisition and discuss second-quarter earnings. Global Payments reported revenue of $962 million for the quarter, up from $842 million in the second quarter of 2016, and earnings per share of 94 cents, up 24% from 76 cents in the year-earlier period. Global Payments additionally raised its full-year outlook to about $3.74 billion in revenue from the original outlook of $3.46 billion.

Global Payments' 2017 earnings are not expected to reflect ACTIVE's impact, since the deal isn't scheduled to close until the fourth quarter. But Sloan said there is a lot of upside for the market. Digital payments technology for fitness, sports and related events has traditionally lagged behind more traditional retail chains, giving Global Payments an opportunity to introduce services to reside alongside the event management software that ACTIVE provides.

"It's operating in an underpenetrated and fragmented market," Sloan said. "And it does not conflict with Global Payments business partners."

As part of the deal, the Atlanta-based Global Payments will partner with Vista Equity Partners to provide payments technology to Vista's portfolio.

Vista, of Austin, Texas, invests in the enterprise software segment of the technology market. Its portfolio includes companies in a variety of industries, including companies such as Advicent, a financial advice company; Finastra, a fintech company; and Trintech, a corporate performance measurement company.

"The value is having a relationship with someone that owns so much enterprise software that aligns with our strategy," Cameron Bready, Global Payments' CFO, said during the call.

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"We will go portfolio by portfolio to find the right solution for each entity."

While Vista has relationships with other payment gateway companies, it is taking a stake in Global Payments, which makes this deal different than Vista's other collaborations with payment processors, according to Sloan. Global Payments is also not anticipating a one-size-fits-all approach for integrating payments through these new partnerships.

"We will go portfolio by portfolio to find the right solution for each entity," Bready said. "We may integrate into their technology or we may just provide payment services. We'll have to look at each business."

The ACTIVE deal is similar to Global Payments' much larger acquisition of Heartland Payment Systems, a $4.3 billion purchase in late 2015.

In the case of Heartland, Global Payments was combining Heartland's merchant technology and Global Payments' international reach for a deeper range of services and marketing programs to small businesses, restaurants and education payment companies. Like fitness and sports events, these markets have been traditionally underserved by integrated payment options, Global Payments says.

"We’re going to see more of this," said Rick Oglesby, president of AZ Payments Group. "The traditional payment terminal and e-commerce gateway markets are well served, but there are a number of segments of the market that require an entirely different set of tools."

A charity fundraising event often doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a merchant, Oglesby said, adding it requires different acceptance technologies, a different type of merchant account, different payment arrangements, different underwriting and risk management treatments, and different value-added services.

"There are still plenty of avenues to displace cash and grow the payments industry, but they require more creativity than the traditional terminal and gateway markets," Oglesby said. "Many of these needs are being filled by entrepreneurial software companies, but traditional payments companies are increasingly getting involved."