Mastercard leans on VocaLink for speed, new 'endpoints'

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Purchasing VocaLink has cost Mastercard more than $900 million and some regulatory headaches, but the investment has to potential to spark new payment products and facilitate the card brand's pursuit of faster processing.

"We'll have a combination that will allow us to facilitate customer choice and capture a new set of payment flows," said Ajay Banga, Mastercard's president and CEO, during Thursday morning's second quarter earnings call.

Mastercard officially closed its VocaLink acquisition earlier this spring, after making some concessions to overcome scrutiny over the deal's impact on ATM competition in the U.K.

Now that VocaLink has been brought in-house, Banga said the company's role in boosting payment processing speed in diverse markets will help Mastercard expand real-time or near-real-time payments in dozens of countries. Also, VocaLink will allow Mastercard to support payments to businesses and consumers that don't have a card account, allowing the card brand to approach a new set of clients.

"We can reach more endpoints. VocaLink can connect to ERP systems for B-to-B payables and receivables management, but it can also support bill payment because of its messaging component," Banga said. "We can offer card and bank account based payment solutions."

VocaLink has partnered with companies such as IBM, and played a major role in migrating the U.K. to near real-time processing to accommodate mobile and other digital payments. It has since supplied technology for similar initiatives in North America, Europe and Asia.

"VocaLink has demonstrated the ability to take software and apply it to markets as diverse as Sweden, the UK. and Thailand," Banga said, adding the acquisition will help Mastercard boost cross-border payments and support mobile wallet initiatives.

For the second quarter, ending June 30, Mastercard reported net income of $1.2 billion, or $1.10 per share, up from $1 billion, or $0.89 per share for the same quarter last year. That's better than analysts' expectations of $1.04 per share. Mastercard also reported a 17% increase in transactions to 16 billion. Banga attributed the performance to stronger and more stable economies in countries around the world.

Banga also provided a more detailed roadmap for Mastercard's plans to build a domestic payment market in China. The Chinese government recently provided more clarity on regulations for outside card networks, spurring Visa to expedite its application to build a market in China.

Mastercard is finalizing an application based on the new regulations, Banga said, adding the process will take up to 18 months to play out.

"What's really important is to get it right out of the gate," Banga said, adding Mastercard is responding to cybersecurity standards in the country as it develops its plan for China. "This is just another step in the process."

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Real-time payments Payment processing M&A Earnings Ajay Banga Mastercard