Amid the merger mania sweeping up gaming industry suppliers, the joining of MEI and Crane Payment Solutions is one of the easier unions to rationalize—and one of the best-positioned to thrive
No doubt about it, 2014 will go down as the “Year of Consolidation,” when not only the slot behemoths gobbled each other up but a number of leading innovators on the peripherals side also joined the fray, some merging with competitors, others seeking to acquire complementary product lines.
The motivation behind Crane Co.’s acquisition of MEI to create Crane Payment Innovations was clearly strategic and eminently sensible. MEI mainly specializes in cash, currency, physical bills and notes, while Crane Payment Solutions’ products primarily handled coins. By bringing the two together, the new brand, CPI, promises the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of cash management solutions.
And it wasn’t as if Crane and MEI were merely jumping on the merger bandwagon either. Crane had originally announced its intent to acquire MEI back in December 2012, but the process was delayed by the European Commission’s request that two Crane Payment Solutions products first be divested (neither one gaming-related) in order to comply with EU competition rules. CPI was finally founded in December 2013 and its combined reach now
encompasses markets ranging from gaming and retail to financial services, transportation and vending. Its presence stretches across 144 countries serviced by some 2,200 employees, including more than 500 engineers, manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe and the UK and 24 sales offices in North and South America, Europe, South Africa, Asia and Australia.
The casino industry, of course, knows both MEI and Crane well—the former mainly through its renowned Cashflow series of bill acceptors, the latter through Crane Payment Solutions, parent company of CashCode and Money Controls, makers of the CashCode one, SM and Ardac Elite bill validators and a trusted lineup of coin validators, sorters, hoppers and recyclers.
The combined entity exhibited its full range of products for the first time at October’s G2E in Las Vegas, a display that included the new SCR note recycler, which is performing strongly in field trials in Germany and is scheduled for launch in early 2015.
Inside Asian Gaming caught up with CPI President of Gaming Eric Fisher at the show to ask how far the new company has come in the complex merger process.
IAG: What stage are you at in your integration?
Mr Fisher: The stage that we’ve reached is stability. We’ve stabilized the organization so our sales and technical support people now know all our brands and service them well. As a result, our customers can speak with only one point of contact to get everything they need. From an internal standpoint, it will get even better when we’ve completed our SAP [sales and purchases] implementation and our sales people can use a single system to place and track customer orders.
As good as it was before, we aspire to gain additional advantages for customers. That’s still coming.
How about advantages for you as a company?
For us as a company it’s been fantastic to have a full portfolio. If you look at MEI’s strength in notes and Crane Payment Solutions’ strength in coins—both with acceptors and recyclers—the two mesh really, really well. So now, having a complete portfolio of coins and notes to offer customers, we are a one-stopshop across automated payment systems.
The combined entity must have expanded your geographical reach?
It’s helped in terms of geography, and application as well. In certain locations MEI did well, in other locations Crane Payment Solutions did well. In certain applications, such as retail self-checkout, MEI did very well with note acceptors, whereas the coin side was all Crane Payment Solutions. So now we get the whole package, and it works out great. Having the ability to get in with a product, then be able to introduce the whole suite, and provide the service to back it all up, really shows our worth. It allows us to be more profitable because people recognize the value of dealing with one supplier who does everything well. Now we have the opportunity to bundle products and providecomplete solutions to our customers.
So what’s happening on the R&D side?
If you look at MEI historically, more than 10% of our revenue went toward R&D. We’re continuing this as a joint entity. So now there’s even more.
We’re still working to further consolidate our engineering activities, but nobody in the industry offers more engineers than we have.
Crane acquired MEI to create a full portfolio of payment systems with CPI. And putting those R&D resources, marketing resources and sales resources on payment systems will make us a more effective supplier.
Other companies that have consolidated are becoming more similar to broad range distributors, whereas we remain focused, as the industry’s expert, on payment systems.
What’s been happening in Asia recently?
Asia’s been a big contributor to our business, and now the region’s on the cusp of another boom. After a lull in Macau, we’ve got these new properties opening. We’re really excited about Galaxy Macau opening next year and all the other Cotai openings that will follow.
We’re continuing to do well in the Philippines, and as new properties continue to come on line we’ll pursue them as well.
We’ve got an eye on Cambodia, and we’re obviously monitoring Japan. There’s lots going on.
And, of course, internationally we’ve done very well in the VLT market. Across Canada, Oregon and Illinois we’ve reached nearly 50,000 deployments of the SC Advance. And we’re obviously very interested in what’s happening in Greece, which could open up 35,000 games.