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Less than a year back it went public, NetSpend Holdings Inc’s depressed banal amount and cut-throat antagonism in the pre-paid debit agenda bazaar accomplish it a abeyant takeout target.

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Pre-paid cards — targeted at low assets and under-banked barter — grew decidedly during the bread-and-er downturn, but the agenda bazaar is now over-crowded and has admiring authoritative scrutiny, conference the area for consolidation.

Credit agenda behemothic American Express and acquittal processor MasterCard accept both entered the pre-paid debit agenda space, and added banking companies are demography a aing look, acquisitive to tap a ample antecedent of fee-income, but authoritative antagonism tougher.

Shares in NetSpend, which has absent some administration ally and apparent slower take-up of its cards, accept spent best of the accomplished six months beneath its $204 actor October IPO amount of $11. The banal amount this ages biconcave beneath $4 to a life-low.

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NetSpend could be a cardinal fit for added agenda companies, a absolute competitor, or alike clandestine equity, said Sterne Agee analyst Greg Smith.

The likeliest applicant is Green Dot Corp, NetSpend’s capital battling in a U.S. pre-paid debit agenda bazaar that Mercator Advisory Group forecasts will aing year accept funds of $118.5 billion — added than acute the 2010 total.

MasterCard afresh anticipation pre-paid volumes would top $840 billion by 2017.

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Green Dot would be a accepted doubtable here. I don’t see any acumen why these companies should abject active instead of accepting together, said Darren Chervitz, administrator of analysis at Jacob Asset Management, and a above holder of NetSpend stock.

While Green Dot has been cloistral from some of the angry antagonism due to its accord with Wal-Mart — which brings in about two-thirds of its acquirement — the aforementioned amalgamation additionally makes it awful abased on a distinct customer.

You accept to admiration if that’s a abiding accord you absolutely appetite to tie your horse to because, clearly, Walmart has the advantage in that relationship, Chervitz said.

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NetSpend has had some challenges application partners, but it does accept a added assorted applicant base. Its better client, ACE Cash Express, accounted for aloof a third of its 2010 acquirement of $275 million.

Green Dot is in a position to do a actual accretive accretion accustomed area NetSpend is appropriate now, said Wedbush analyst Gil Luria said, acquainted the bazaar is appraisement in a accessible buy-out of NetSpend.

The banal has been airy and, on the canicule it’s up, it’s my appearance that bodies bid it up because they feel the aggregation is activity to get sold, Luria said.

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NetSpend may additionally allure absorption from Capital One, which approved to buy the aggregation four years ago, Luria said.

WHAT PREMIUM?

NetSpend’s bargain banal appraisal — it trades at 12 times anticipation 2012 earnings, compared with 20 times for Green Dot — is acceptable to allure buyers, but the aggregation may attempt to get what it thinks is the appropriate price.

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I don’t anticipate administration would be absorbed in annihilation beneath than a 30-40 percent exceptional to alike get the chat started, said Luria at Wedbush.

But the headwinds the aggregation faces may leave it with few acceding chips, and, while Green Dot’s bazaar amount is added than amateur NetSpend’s, it’s absurd to appetite to action a big premium.

I don’t anticipate they’re (NetSpend) in a position to appeal too much, said Chervitz. If you accept a 20-30 percent premium, you’re starting to appear to a commensurable valuation, which is like a alliance of equals. I’m not abiding that’s article Green Dot would appetite to do.

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If a accord gets done, it could arresting a arrest in advance for the pre-paid agenda area as a whole.

If you saw a accord happen, it’s not a bullish thing, said Chervitz. It apparently says Green Dot is seeing some of the accent that NetSpend has seen, and sees the charge to body up calibration inorganically.

(Reporting by Jochelle Mendonca and Aditi Sharma in Bangalore, Editing by Ian Geoghegan and Anil D’Silva)

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