Stargroup Sees ATM Opportunity
Get More Commentary, Discussion & Market Information On -
The only pure-play, ASX-listed ATM operator, Stargroup sniffs an opportunity in the big banks’ decision to abolish foreign ATM fees at an estimated collective cost to their revenue of $120m a year.
At face value, this magnanimous act should be a threat to the independent operators: why would punters still fork out an average $2.40 per withdrawal on a Stargroup ATM when they can do it for nix on a Big Four ATM down the road? Sensing danger, investors whacked Stargroup shares by 25 per cent after the Commonwealth Bank sparked the Big Four fee abolition chain reaction.
But Stargroup, the second biggest independent ATM deployer behind the global giant Cardtronics, believes the fee abolition will spur the banks to outsource their ATMs. “Stargroup has been positioning itself to be at the table to have such discussions with the majors,” Stargroup CEO Todd Zani says.
Zani reckons the CBA alone spends at least $160m a year on its ATM fleet. On Deutsche Bank’s sums, the Big Four will forego $117m a year in foreign fee revenue, ranging from $38m for the Commonwealth Bank to $22m for the National Australia Bank. “There are possibly lesser incentives for the owners of ATMs to continue to invest in and maintain their network,” Deutsche says.
Zani claims Stargroup could run the ATMs much cheaper, because most of the banks’ ATM hardware is outdated.
He says Stargroup’s fleet of 2400 ATMs (owned and operated for third parties) is similar to the ATM networks of the smaller two of the Four Pillars, the ANZ Bank and the National Australia Bank.
“So we have proven we can operate an ATM network the equivalent size of two of the four majors.”
As for Stargroup’s nasty share price tumble, Zani attributes the selling to retail investors who don’t understand Stargroup’s business model.
In reality, he says, there’s little risk of the fee-free bank ATMs leaching business from its own machines. Stargroup ATMs are located in venues such as pubs, clubs, servos and 7-11s and pitched at convenience. Typically, a pubgoer will pay a high fee rather than trawl a hostile street late at night for a bank ATM.
In the meantime, Stargroup defies the gradual but remorseless trend away from cash. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, consumers withdrew $11.3bn in the month of July over 51.8m transactions.
Two years earlier, they withdrew $12.48bn across 60.5m transactions. While this downward trend has been consistent, the number of banknotes in circulation has been growing by a steady 6% a year.
Stargroup reports total owned ATMs of 509 as at June 30 2017, up 46 per cent, with average monthly per-machine transactions of 595 (up 4 per cent).
Thanks to a $6.6m tax benefit, Stargroup reported a full year profit of $1.9m on revenue of $8.3m. Management guides to current-year earnings of $2-2.5m on revenue of $20-21m.
Despite the ATM resilience, Stargroup isn’t ignoring the day when the last crisp fiver is withdrawn from circulation. In early September the company signed a joint venture with the listed block chain company DigitalX (DCC) to provide ‘two way’ Bitcoin ATMs. Currently there are fewer than 20 Bitcoin ATMs nationally and most of them only allow one-way purchases (adding the currency to a digital wallet, not selling it for ‘real’ money).
Bitcoin ATM conversion fees are a chunky 4-8 per cent of the transaction. At the midpoint, that’s around $300 per transaction at the current per-Bitcoin rate of around $4950.
But while pocketing $300 is more compelling than reaping $2.40 on a normal ATM transaction, few Bitcoin transactions take place. For the time being.
The New Criterion is authored by Tim Boreham.
Many readers will remember Boreham as author of the Criterion column in The Australian newspaper, for well over a decade. He also has more than three decades' experience of business reporting across three major publications.
Tim Boreham has now joined Independent Investment Research and is proud to present The New Criterion, which will honour the style and purpose of the old column. These were based on covering largely ignored small to mid cap stocks in an accessible and entertaining manner for both retail and professional investors.
Disclaimer: The author nor Independent Investment Research have received a fee or any kind of inducement for this article. The New Criterion is not intended as specific investment advice and readers should contact a licensed financial adviser.