Mobile banking technology company Monitise is by all appearances for sale, though it may have to get creative to find a buyer.
The companies that would seem the most obvious buyers already have their own mobile commerce platforms, making it necessary for Monitise to look beyond the usual suspects, said Richard Crone, a payments consultant.
Monitise, which did not comment on sale speculation, has not formally announced it is for sale, though its public statements are consistent with those of a company seeking a buyer. During Monitise's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, Peter Ayliffe, Monitise's chairman, gave a strong indication a sale may be close, saying "the announcement of our strategy review has led to many constructive discussions with market-leading players interested in our business and the role we play in the industry."
Monitise's challenge is it has mobile expertise that may make it a great choice as a mobile developer, but it doesn't control any of the content it presents, said Tim Sloane, vice president of payments at Mercator Advisory Group.
"Most major processors have tried to launch mobile apps because they recognize they own the data and have connections to the payments network," Sloane said.
The expansion of mobile payments heightens this challenge, Sloane said. "Post Apple Pay it appears Monitise will find it difficult to provision its mobile app with payment credentials. Visa and MasterCard are keeping this capability to themselves for now."
Monitise's mobile technology and global reach could attract interest from a wide range of suitors looking to diversify their mobile commerce toolset. Even within the payments industry, many incumbents are challenged to grow beyond their conventional lines of business.
Banks, card companies, point of sale vendors and processors are all diversifying beyond their legacy roles in the payments chain to avoid being considered a "dumb pipe," or a company with a singular commoditize mission.
While Monitise's announcements follow disappointing financial performance, its product set remains attractive. It handles mobile alerts, design and developer tools that enable rewards, marketing and other m-commerce functions.
"Monitise has mobile payments as a remaining strong option for buyer growth," said Jim Van Dyke, CEO of Javelin Strategy & Research. "The company has some interesting capabilities that allow consumer mobile payments to grow on mobile banking functionality."
Mobile payments can be a portal to expand consumer share for these companies, Van Dyke said.
"For mid-to-larger banks, and consumers, we have passed the stage where consumer mobile banking is unpenetrated, and yet mobile proximity payments adoption is largely unpenetrated," Van Dyke said.
Monitise has already lured payment stakeholders as partners. Its investors include MasterCard, Telefonica and Santander.
Many competitors are working to integrate payments with other consumer features, Van Dyke said. "It's a market area with conflicting vendor claims on both the degree and nature of systems' 'integratability.'"