Meta Financial Group has agreed to buy Fort Knox Financial Services, a software firm that helps independent tax firms process refund transfers.

Meta, a $2.3 billion-asset company, agreed to pay $50 million in stock and cash for the privately held firm. The cash portion of the acquisition will be funded by the $26 million private placement Meta announced last month.

The deal is expected to close this quarter and should boost earnings by a percentage in the mid-teens, Meta said in its release. The transaction will dilute tangible book value by 15 percent; the company said it anticipates earning that back in less than four years.

Fort Knox, through its Refund Advantage brand, provides software to tax firms nationwide. The software processed more than one million refunds annually. The Fort Knox team will join Meta but remain based in Louisville, Ky. Fort Knox offers tax refund transfers through direct deposit, check and prepaid card. That buttresses Meta Payment Systems, which offers prepaid cards, including those used for tax refunds.

"Over time, Meta will assume certain services provided by others to Fort Knox and make available other Meta products and services to tax preparers and their customers,” J. Tyler Haahr, Meta’s chairman and chief executive, said in the release. “We believe these are significant additional earnings opportunities, as we realize those strategic synergies, which we think will increase accretion and reduce the earn-back period even further."

Meta, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, advised by Sandler O'Neill and Katten Muchin Rosenman. Fort Knox was advised by Ridley Capital Group and Fore, Miller & Schwartz.

Other buyers are also showing interest in software companies, as businesses adapt to new technology and search for a recurring services that were absent in previous software models. For more on the trend, see Plugging Into Software and watch Recurring Revenues Make Software Companies Attractive to Private Equity

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