First Data's move to cut more than 500 jobs from its Denver location drew attention to the company and its relationship to the firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
Hundreds of credit unions process transactions on First Data's credit and debit card platforms, including many that process transactions through payment CUSOs PSCU and The Members Group.
The processor confirmed the job cuts with Denver media outlets on Nov. 21 but made no formal announcement of the move. A company spokesman told The Denver Post the cuts were part of ongoing efforts to increase operating efficiency, reduce excess capacity and remain competitive in the fast-paced payments business.
Some pink-slipped employees will be reassigned to other First Data locations, but others will lose their jobs, a First Data spokesman said.
The move comes as the latest in a series of steps the company has taken after being taken private by KKR in a leveraged buyout in 2007.
The most recent was a restructuring of the firm's debt in October, a move that gained the approval of at least one ratings agency. The moves have been necessary as the company has continued to lose money ever since 2007, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, even though it was highly profitable in 2006, one year before the takeover.
The Wall Street Journal recently published a column by Al Lewis, a Denver area writer, who recapped some of the company's struggles since the 2007 take over.
“The credit card transaction company is much like a consumer who ran up too much credit card debt and may never be able to pay it back,” Lewis wrote at the end of his column.
First Data did not dispute anything in the column, but in response, emphasized it is moving forward.
“First Data is transforming itself into a more client focused, efficient and innovation-driven company,” said a spokesman for the company. “This evolution includes returning the company to profitability and better leveraging our assets to help our clients grow their businesses. Another part of the evolution will be in how we do business: driving collaboration with our clients, innovating new solutions, and facilitating incubation of new technologies with start-up companies.”
The spokesman also pointed to First Data's recent acquisition of Clover and Perka, a new point-of-sale system and rewards system aimed at the small business market, as well as its recently announced strategic relationship with Oberthur Technologies, a German firm that provides EMV cards, as examples of its progress.
But there are still signs that First Data's future is not worry free. Rupert Hargreaves, an investment analyst and author with popular finance and investment advisory firm The Motley Fool, noted that when KKR refinanced some of First Data's debt load in October, the firm did not get the same sorts of low interest rates that might have been expected in the current low-rate environment.
“According to Reuters, First Data is refinancing $2 billion of 11.5% senior notes that are due in 2016 with the cash, and $1.4 billion in new senior notes with a 14.5% coupon. For its cash, KKR will receive convertible preferred stock in First Data,” Hargreaves wrote. “Still, First Data is a risky investment, and KKR reckons that its stake in the company was only worth $0.70 on the dollar as of June. It seems that the rate of interest is indicative of the risk in place here.”