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January 25, 2010updated 04 Apr 2017 4:17pm

Smart Voucher fast-tracks global expansion

Smart Voucher better known by its trading name Ukash has formed its fifth new distribution alliance in six months, reinforcing its claim of having the worlds largest and fastest-growing prepaid-cash estate. The latest alliance is with French-issuing network la SAF, which provides the UK-based prepaid specialist with distribution points for Ukash vouchers at 15,000 POS terminals, primarily in tobacconists and newsagents across France. Targeting consumers reluctant to use payment cards or divulge personal details when shopping online, each Ukash voucher carries a unique, randomly generated 19-digit number which can be delivered in many ways including paper, email, mobile text message and plastic card.

By EPI editorial

Smart Voucher – better known by its trading name Ukash – has formed its fifth new distribution alliance in six months, reinforcing its claim of having the world’s largest and fastest-growing prepaid-cash estate.

The latest alliance is with French-issuing network la SAF, which provides the UK-based prepaid specialist with distribution points for Ukash vouchers at 15,000 POS terminals, primarily in tobacconists and newsagents across France.

Targeting consumers reluctant to use payment cards or divulge personal details when shopping online, each Ukash voucher carries a unique, randomly generated 19-digit number which can be delivered in many ways including paper, email, mobile text message and plastic card.

Ukash vouchers are available in France in denominations of €20 ($29) to €200. The addition of France, where Smart Voucher has had an online distribution presence for some time, brings the number of issuing points where the vouchers are available to 300,000 in 29 countries.

The tie-up with la SAF followed hard on the heels of the introduction of Ukash vouchers in China where, in December 2009, an online distribution initiative was launched in alliance with China’s card organisation, China UnionPay (CUP).

Purchase of Ukash vouchers using CUP-branded debit cards is undertaken online in what Smart Voucher describes as a process which involves a physical security device that ensures a consumer’s details are kept “completely safe”. Ukash vouchers are issued in US dollars in China and are available in denominations ranging from $5 to $50.

The launch in China came two months after Smart Voucher’s entry into North America where it teamed up with Canadian automated transaction software developer VendTek Systems. Ukash vouchers are available under VendTek’s Now Prepay brand from 15,000 POS terminals throughout Canada, with denominations ranging from C$25 ($24) to C$150.

October 2009 also saw Smart Voucher make its entry into Latin America, albeit on a small scale through a link-up with retail financial service provider Redpagos which is providing 300 outlets for Ukash vouchers in Uruguay.

International boost

A far more significant alliance got underway in Australia in August last year, in an alliance with prepaid product distributor epay, a unit of US payments solutions provider Euronet.

The alliance initially provides some 3,600 outlets for Ukash vouchers which are available in denominations of A$10 ($9) to A$500.

Established in 2001, Smart Voucher is one of four companies authorised by the UK’s Financial Services Authority to operate as an electronic money institution, a status that allows a single maximum online cash payment transaction of up to £500 ($810). Marketing of Ukash vouchers commenced in 2005.

Smart Voucher received a significant financial boost in September 2008 with investment by UK payments processor Data-Cash and South African prepaid products specialist Blue Label Telecoms (BLT).

DataCash’s investment of £3.8 million ($6.2 million) was via a three-year convertible instrument which will, after conversion, give it a 16.66 percent stake in Smart Voucher.

BLT’s $6 million direct equity investment gave it a 17.25 percent stake.

The additional capital gave Smart Voucher the fire power to accelerate its international expansion strategy, reflected in the company trebling in size within 12 months. Ukash transactions were reported in July 2009 to be running at an annual rate of over €100 million.

The Ukash voucher system is hosted by UK communications company Cable and Wireless while multi-currency transactions are managed using Royal Bank of Scotland’s automated currency processing platform, FXmicropay.

Anti-fraud and anti-money laundering is entrusted to UK payments systems vendor Alaric’s Fractals Merchant Monitoring.

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