If things are truly bigger in Texas, then mPowa CEO Dan Wagner figures it's a good place for merchants to be able to accept credit card payments via mobile devices in those wide, open spaces.

Mobility is important in allowing merchants to reach consumers across wide markets, and the mPowa mobile card reader can fit that bill, Wagner says.

As such, London-based Powa Technologies Ltd. plans to locate an office for its mPowa unit in Houston in the coming months as well as other regions to accelerate its growth in the U.S.

Last summer, mPowa made its initial move into the U.S. market by opening a New York office and setting the stage for its future expansion in the U.S., about a year after introducing the card reader and a separate mobile chip-and-PIN reader in Europe.

While U.S. expansion has always been on Wagner's mind, mPowa favors markets in which chip-based EMV smartcards are more entrenched.

"We are in ongoing discussions with independent sales organizations and other partners to white label our product throughout the U.S., but there is no pressing need for EMV capabilities yet in the U.S.," Wagner says.

Other markets, such as South Africa and India, have garnered more immediate attention from mPowa, Wagner says.

MPowa completed a deal to supply the devices and infrastructure for mobile payments through First National Bank in South Africa in late October, and last week revealed its intention to enter new markets in India.

The mPowa technology supports Apple Inc. iPhones, Google Inc. Android handsets, Research in Motion Blackberry phones and Microsoft Windows devices.

The mobile payment provider charges a 2.95% fee for each credit and debit card payment processed and offers a Web-based merchant dashboard for account management to monitor payments.

Mostly, mPowa competes in the white-labeling business for its card reader with the likes of Boston-based Roam Data, of which Paris-based Ingenico SA owns a controlling interest

"We are not forcing our clients to be acquired by us," Wagner says. "If they already have an acquiring relationship with a bank, we just provide the services on top of that."

MPowa is currently in conversations with more than 500 independent sales organizations or service providers throughout the U.S., Wagner says.

"We intend on having four offices in the U.S. this year to support our discussions with major white label companies," Wagner adds.

In addition to the New York office and the planned entry into Houston, the company hopes to establish offices in Chicago and near San Francisco this year, Wagner says.

When mPowa initially announced its intention to enter the U.S., Zil Bareisis, a London-based senior analyst for research firm Celent, warned that the market was far more crowded than just competing against Square Inc. or Intuit Inc.

"Companies such as VeriFone, Appriva and Magtek are focused on mobilizing the merchants who already accept cards," Bareisis stated. "They all have devices in the market that they would sell through acquirers, ISOs and processors."

While such a warning still rings true, VeriFone, for one, has recently announced it would cut back on direct promotion of its Sail mobile device, opting instead to let banks resell the product. In addition, VeriFone made it clear it was open to discussions with a potential buyer or third-party distributor of the Sail device.


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