"Angry Birds," the video game downloaded more than 1 billion times, is finding its way into consumers' wallets.
Rovio Entertainment Oy, the game's Finnish creator, licensed out the scowling fowl for use on prepaid Visa cards in a deal with California-based issuer Kaiku Finance LLC, the closely held companies said yesterday in a statement without disclosing terms. Four designs of the Kaiku Angry Birds Visa Prepaid Card will begin selling online early next year.
The deal marks Helsinki-based Rovio's latest effort to capitalize on its successful mobile-game business ahead of a possible initial public offering next year. The company has more than 200 agreements for clothing, footwear, books, film and personal finance. On Nov. 8, the company plans to offer an "Angry Birds Star Wars" game in partnership with LucasFilm Ltd., according to the Rovio website.
The prepaid card business is becoming a battleground for Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Bank of America Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and others looking to profit from fees on the fast-growing service. Consumers loaded $57 billion onto prepaid cards in 2011, a sum that's expected to grow 42 percent annually through 2014, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which cited Mercator Advisory Group.
More consumers are turning to prepaid cards to avoid checking-account fees that have surged as the Dodd-Frank Act curbs banks' revenue from other sources, including debit transactions and overdraft charges.
Kaiku, based in Thousand Oaks, California, offers prepaid cards issued by Westlake Village-based First California Bank, part of First California Financial Group. (FCAL) Customers pay $1.95 a month for fee-free purchasing online and at stores, along with withdrawals at AllPoint Network's 50,000 ATM machines nationwide. They pay $2.95 to $4.95 to reload cards at participating stores, with free reload options also available.
The Angry Birds cards will come in four designs: The Red Bird, The Yellow Bird, Bomb Bird and the Bad Piggies. They will be sold only on Kaiku's website.
Rovio is preparing for an initial public offering as early as next year, Henri Holm, senior vice president for Asia, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in April.
Last year, it generated $106.3 million in revenue and $67.6 million in profit before tax on sales of the game and merchandise, according to a May statement on its website. About 30 percent of its revenue came from merchandise and licensing.
Rovio, established in 2003, found a hit six years later with "Angry Birds," in which players use a virtual slingshot to fling birds at structures populated by green pigs. The game and its follow-ons have had more than 1 billion free and paid downloads since 2009, according to the statement.