Cashbox blitz will double the network of fee-paying ATMs

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The Independent Online

Only days after an influential group of MPs raised serious concerns about the growth of fee-paying cash machines, plans virtually to double the network are to be unveiled.

Only days after an influential group of MPs raised serious concerns about the growth of fee-paying cash machines, plans virtually to double the network are to be unveiled.

Cashbox, founded by former executives of market leader Hanco, is to raise £20m from private equity investors which it will use to install 18,000 new fee-paying cash machines, or ATMs. On the back of this growth it plans to float within the next two years.

At the moment, 22,000 of the 55,000 ATMs in the UK levy charges for taking out cash. The practice has come under intense scrutiny and a report by the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee called for controls on how these machines operate.

Cashbox, which currently has just 1,000 ATMs, is to install the 18,000 over the next four years, mostly in pubs, off-licences and convenience stores. It already has deals with off-licence chain Threshers and pub groups Bellhaven and Greene King. Its investment would mean that most ATMs in this country will charge for withdrawing cash.

Cashbox typically sells the machines to the retailer, which is responsible for filling them with cash each day. Every time someone takes money out, a message goes to their bank, via the Link ATM network, which reimburses the retailer. A fee of around £1.50 is charged, most of which goes to the retailer with a small amount going to Link and about 35p to Cashbox, which maintains and services the machines.

The group is run by Carl Thomas, who was sales director of Hanco, the ATM network which was sold to Royal Bank of Scotland last year. A number of other ex-Hanco executives have joined him at Cashbox. He admitted that the sector had suffered from a bad press, but said that he welcomed the comments of MPs in the report published 10 days ago.

"We have a strict set of rules and will not put machines in places that are questionable, such as lap-dancing clubs," he commented.

He added that Cashbox conducts surveys of sites before installing new machines and rejects twice as many applications for ATMs as it accepts.

Mr Thomas argues that if an ATM is not going to have sufficient people using it to make it viable at £1.50 a transaction, it should not be installed. Some ATMs charge as much as £10.

That said, he reckoned that half of Britain's 60,000 pubs would be able to sustain a fee-paying machine.

Mr Thomas also hinted that the group could be interested in buying Moneybox, the quoted ATM group which is currently in bid talks with an unnamed suitor, believed to be the AIM-listed Cardpoint.

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