Monitise Buys Turkey’s Pozitron For Up To $100M To Take Its Mobile Money Network To The Middle East

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Some consolidation in the world of mobile commerce. Monitise, a UK-based company that works with the likes of Visa to build and roll out mobile payment solutions, has acquired mobile commerce technology provider Pozitron for $100 million in an all-share deal. This is about inorganic expansion: Pozitron is based in Istanbul, Turkey and is most active in its home market and the Middle East, two regions where Monitise has been less strong.

Other acquisitions at Monitise to push geographic expansion have included Clairmail in 2012 for $173 million to expand into the U.S. market. It’s not the only one: in 2011, Visa acquired Fundamo for $110 million to expand into Africa and other developing world markets.

“This acquisition of Pozitron further reinforces our leading position as a global technology enabler at the heart of the Mobile Money ecosystem,” Monitise Group Chief Executive Alastair Lukies said in a statement. “It comes at a time when we are seeing increasing demand for interoperable Mobile Money services as payments become more digital by the day, not only in Turkey, Europe and the Middle East but also around the world.”

Mobile payments is still a relatively nascent part of the world of commerce. In the U.S., although there were some $4.6 trillion in transactions made in 2013, only around $150 billion were made via mobile devices, according to the Electronic Transactions Association. The thinking here is to tap into the already-strong market ($150b being nothing to sniff at) while positioning for a time when mobile will hold a much larger share.

Pozitron says that it works with some 30 enterprises in telecoms, retail and pharmaceuticals with Turkish Airlines, eBay, ING, BNP Paribas, GlaxoSmithKline and (“Turkey’s equivalent to Amazon”) among its customers, along with a number of large, regional banks. For its part, Monitise says some 24 million consumers use solutions based on its technology, which lets them ‘bank anywhere’, ‘pay anyone’ and ‘buy anything’. Some $50 billion in transactions pass through its systems every year.

Pozitron, founded in 2000, is not your typical startup in Silicon Valley fashion: it had no venture backing (“no VCs” in the words of Monitise’s spokesperson) and is being acquired as a “profitable, debt free” company, but with only $3.8 million in cash. One of its biggest shareholders was it co-founder and CEO, Fatih İşbecer, who now becomes CEO, Middle East & Africa at Monitise. All 130 employees are coming over along with the deal.

It’s a very good news story for the startup scene in Turkey all the same. With the country seen as the doorway to doing business across the Islamic world, VCs like Earlybird are now jumping in with two feet: the Berlin-based investor recently closed a $130 million fund to back startups in Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe.

The details of the deal lay out that the $100 million will only be payable after three years: Monitise will pay £24 million initially based on Monitise’s closing share price of 66.5p on Friday 31 January, 2014, and will then give a three-year earn-out of up to £36 million based on achieving “aggressive” performance targets.

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