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Sage Ditches US Payments, Masterpass 85M User Win And Facebook Tries QR Codes

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It was a big week in the news any way you cut it. House Republicans managed to get their health care bill over the finish line — and Senate Republicans confirmed the intention to more or less redo it.

On the other side of the pond, French voters went to the polls for round two of their presidential election and elected Macron, blunting any short-term risk of a Frexit.

Back in the world of payments and commerce, things were somewhat less explosive and contentious. Which isn’t to say there was an absence of things to watch — this week Sage said it will bid adieu to its U.S. payments unit, Facebook made a QR code play and Mastercard shared its Masterpass global user figures.

Sage’s U.S. Payments Sign-Off

U.K.-based software firm Sage Group will be selling off its U.S. payments business. Sage Payment Solutions was rolled out as solution for small business looking to better manage credit card and mobile payments. At least right now, sources confirm that the business is being treated as a discontinued operation.

Sage is not pulling out of payments in general — the company confirms that its U.K., Ireland and South Africa payments business will remain part of the company.

Chief Executive Officer Stephen Kelly told Bloomberg Television that it continues to monitor — and structure planning around — the impact from the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.

The U.K. government is aiming to cut annual net immigration, which Kelly noted will have a visible impact on Sage and its potential for future growth.

”We’d love to be able to fish in a much bigger pond,” Kelly said in the same interview. “We’d love to get Indian, Chinese and American talent, and that’s much more difficult in the current environment.”

Sage, Brexit headwinds notwithstanding, has affirmed its intention to grow.

Kelley noted that the firm will continue to look to acquire smaller brands that will encourage SMBs into its cloud-based software suite. In March, Sage gained full ownership of Fairsail, a U.K. software company, and inked a deal to buy Compass, the San Francisco startup focused on analytics.

As for potential buyers for Sage Payment solutions, reports from the end of 2016 indicated that Worldpay Group Plc, EVO Payments International LLC and Global Payments Inc had all expressed interest in picking up Sage’s U.S. payments business. Raymond James will reportedly advise Sage in the sale.
Facebook Embraces QR Codes

Facebook may be on track to be the virtual world’s leading advertising destination — but it apparently also wants to be a force in “real-world” commerce as well.

According to reports out this week, Facebook is quietly testing personalized QR codes for users as a means to rack up discounts and rewards bonuses when shopping in the physical world. For some users, their rewards balance can be viewed in the “More” tab in the mobile Facebook app.

“To help businesses continue to connect with customers where they are, we’re running a small test that enables people to use the Facebook app to collect and redeem rewards when they make a purchase at a participating store,” Facebook said in the statement to PYMNTS.

Whether Facebook takes its QR play out of testing and into wide circulation remains to be seen — though the consensus among watchers is that the move could be a big boon to Facebook, its users and its affiliated merchants if rolled out nationally. If users do glom onto it, Facebook will gain access to a whole lot of data on their users’ purchases and their shopping habits so that they can serve them — leading to more ads.

This, however, is not Facebook’s first shot at leveraging in-store discounts — in 2012, it launched Offers, which are discounts that can be redeemed online and offline. Offers didn’t seem to offer much to consumers and was officially brought in for an overhaul last year.

We’ll see if consumers are more ready to connect Facebook to their offline life than they were in 2012.

Masterpass’ Many Millions

Mastercard posted some encouraging earnings results this week, beating on both top- and bottom-line expectations, reporting 2.4 billion cards issued on a global basis and dollar and purchase volume up 8 and 9 percent, respectively.

Cross-border volume growth in transactions was up 13 percent year over year, and dollar volume growth stood at 8 percent. Volume growth was even stronger in switched transactions, which gained 17 percent to 14.7 billion tallied. The U.S. showed relatively lighter growth, with 2 percent GDV, credit growth of 5 percent and debit flat on a year-over-year basis.

However, it was the latest release of official Masterpass figures managed to capture most of the headlines.

The official tally for Masterpass at the quarter’s end was 85 million enabled accounts — buoyed by new bank partnerships such as that with BMO Harris in the U.S. and LaCaixa in Spain.

Banga also noted Masterpass’ global expansion via the consistent progress of Masterpass QR throughout the Middle East and Africa.

“In India, we worked with the government and payment industry to develop and launch Bharat QR, which is an interoperable QR code acceptance solution, basically simplifying the ability for small and micro merchants across the country to get into the electronic payments system in a cost-effective way. The idea is to make it easy for developers to integrate with Mastercard technology and services.”

So what did we learn this week?

Everybody wants to grow— even if they are currently shrinking by selling pieces of their business. Facebook wants to take on the developed and developing worlds with QR codes, Masterpass wants to bridge the digital divide in payments everywhere — and even Sage isn’t fully saying sayonara to payments — it’s just saying goodbye to the U.S.



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