Green Dot Corp., which plans to go public, disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month that it issued 2,208,552 shares of Class A common stock to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., sparking speculation the retailer is indirectly trying to gain a toehold in banking following failed attempts to do so three years ago.
But the top executive of the prepaid card provider says Wal-Mart would not play a role in operating the bank holding company Green Dot is trying to buy if the deal is approved.
“The equity interest, in and of itself, doesn’t change the business relationship” between Green Dot and Wal-Mart, says Steve Streit, Green Dot chairman, president and chief executive.
Green Dot, of Monrovia, Calif., in February filed an application with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to purchase Bonneville Bancorp, a Utah-based bank holding company, for $15.65 million.
The shares issued to Wal-Mart will represent less than 1% of Green Dot’s Class A and Class B common stock following the offering, according to the SEC filing. Wal-Mart will not have voting rights, Streit says.
Green Dot issued the shares as part of an extension of an existing relationship between it, Wal-Mart and GE Money Bank.
Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer ditched efforts to charter an industrial loan company in 2007 amid vociferous industry opposition.
Green Dot, which sells its cards and reload services at about 50,000 retail locations, has been the exclusive provider of general-purpose reloadable prepaid cards sold at Wal-Mart under the retailer’s MoneyCard program since 2007. GE Money Bank, a subsidiary of General Electric Co., issues the cards.
The three companies decided to extend their relationship in May, entering into a new contract that expires in 2015. GE Money remains the exclusive issuer of MoneyCard cards, and Green Dot remains the exclusive provider of packaging, call-center operations and other portfolio-management services, Streit says.
John Grund, a partner with Linthicum, Md.-based First Annapolis Consulting, says he does not view Wal-Mart’s stake in Green Dot as a new gateway into banking.
“This is much more about the strategic relationship between Wal-Mart and Green Dot than it is about any backdoor way of getting into banking,” he says. “It’s the largest partner of Green Dot, drives a ton of volume, and this is just a way of aligning incentives and creating value by bringing a lot to the table in terms of the scale that Wal-Mart” provides.”
Green Dot expects to hear a decision regarding its Bonneville application in the third quarter, Streit says. Owning the holding company, which operates the $33.7 million asset Bonneville Bank in Provo, Utah, would enable Green Dot to issue its prepaid cards directly to consumers and cut costs.
“It gives us more control over the product,” Streit says.
In February, Green Dot announced plans to raise up to $150 million through an initial public offering in a prospectus filing with the SEC.
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