Squaring Off With Square: Ingenico Takes Control of Rival ROAM

Photograph: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Square, which offers a credit card reader for smartphones, is facing increasing competition.

Square, beware. Ingenico SA, a maker of in-store payment terminals, just took a controlling stake in ROAM Data, a rival provider of portable payment systems used by small merchants.

Just like Square, ROAM’s technology lets smartphones and tablets based on iOS and Android to accept credit-card payments. It’s distributed to small businesses by the likes of Intuit Inc., Sage Payment Solutions and Total Merchant Services.

“We are arming them to compete with Square,” said Robert Stringer, vice president of products and marketing at ROAM. The companies did not disclose the value of the deal.

With Ingenico behind it, ROAM hopes to invest more in its technology, and to expand beyond the U.S., where the majority of its users are based, Stringer said. ROAM is profitable, and had seen sales grow 600 percent since 2009, when Ingenico first invested in the company.

The additional investment could signal that large payment-equipment companies are increasingly taking Square seriously, and redoubling efforts to push the start-up aside. Last year, rival VeriFone Systems Inc. began offering a special sleeve, which lets mobile devices accept card payments.

Ingenico sells a portable, cell-phone-sized device that takes card payments as well. ROAM brings Ingenico a step closer to having a comparable offering to Square’s.

The investment “is part of chess moves by the industry stakeholders to protect their turf,” said Richard Crone, who heads Crone Consulting LLC. “I consider it an early warning for Square.”

Ingenico’s president of North America, Thierry Denis, downplayed the rivalry with Square, saying “it’s not a step against any one of our competitors, it’s a response to the market.”

Square, created by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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