Magazine article American Banker

Nova to Buy Crestar's $1.8 Billion Merchant Portfolio

Magazine article American Banker

Nova to Buy Crestar's $1.8 Billion Merchant Portfolio

Article excerpt

Nova Information Systems Inc. has jumped back into portfolio acquisitions with a splash.

The Atlanta-based merchant processor said it had signed a letter of intent to acquire Richmond, Va.-based Crestar Bank's $1.8 billion portfolio.

The planned deal is a coup for Nova, which has been quiet since its mega-acquisition of First Union Corp.'s $4.6 billion portfolio in 1996.

Terms of the agreement, which is expected to close this month, were not released, but experts said a conservative cost estimate would be $15 million.

The Crestar portfolio of 7,500 merchants is No. 42 in the country, according to The Nilson Report, Oxnard, Calif. Nova would jump into the No. 7 spot, overtaking Fifth Third Bank of Cincinnati and First Bank System Inc., Minneapolis.

Nova had slipped in 1996 to ninth from eighth in 1995.

Industry experts said the planned acquisition is a sign that Nova can leverage its technological expertise to win the shrinking number of prime portfolios away from bigger competitors like First Data Corp.

"The strategic impact is greater than the numbers," said Franco Turrinelli, research analyst at William Blair & Co., Chicago. "It demonstrates Nova's ability to compete for and win a portfolio of this size. It reestablishes Nova's forward momentum in a consolidating industry and in Nova's acquisition program."

Mr. Turrinelli added that the portfolio would increase Nova's processing volume by 10%. With Crestar, Nova would have 95,000 merchants and about $14. …

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