Google wants to buy the telco-led mobile payments consortium Softcard, according to the technology news site TechCrunch, which cited unnamed sources.

The price is expected to be less than $100 million, which TechCrunch's sources suggested was a low price for the Softcard wallet, adding the mobile operators have invested millions of dollars on the venture. PayPal and Microsoft may also be interested in buying Softcard, TechCrunch reported.

Softcard, which just underwent a round of downsizing, is coming off of a difficult year.

The venture, led by T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, faces a threat from new wallets enabled by Host Card Emulation technology, which allows smartphones to make contactless mobile payments without requiring the carriers' approval. Softcard has held steadfast to its traditional Near Field Communication model for Android handsets, claiming NFC is safer than HCE.

Softcard also faces challenges from emerging mobile payment initiatives such as the merchant-led MCX and Apple Pay, though Softcard has also said it was in talks with Apple to enable the Softcard wallet to make NFC payments on Apple devices.

Softcard also faced challenges that were beyond is control. It was originally named Isis, and changed its brand to avoid any unintended association with the Middle Eastern militant group of the same name.

The company has also scored some wins, such as placing its technology in the Subway sandwich chain and being featured in advertising from McDonald's.

Google Wallet, which also runs primarily on Android devices, has also struggled to gain traction and has frequently tweaked its technology and business model in an attempt to lure merchants and consumers.

Softcard and Google did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. In an earlier interview with PaymentsSource, Jaymee Johnson, head of marketing for Softcard, indicated that the company felt it was in a good position in mobile payments, especially with Apple Pay giving mobile wallet technology a boost in consumer awareness. 

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