Icici Bank Sells Terminals Of Card Payment

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ICICI Bank has concluded the sale of its network of electronic point of sales (PoS) terminals that accept Credit Card and Debit Card payments to First Data Corporation (FDC). The bank has hived off its network of over 1.5 lakh electronic swipe machines to a separate company ICICI Merchant Services. First Data has bought an 81% stake in the company which has been valued at a little over $90 million.

When contacted, ICICI Bank refused to comment on the transaction. The bank has, however, communicated to merchants having ICICI Bank terminals that the PoS network has been transferred to ICICI Merchant Services. First Data, along with partner banks, is keen to proliferate payment transactions not just at top retailers but also through small cities or towns in India, said Amrish Rau, country manager, First Data Corporation.

Referring to the transaction with ICICI Bank, Mr Rau said an announcement would be made in due course. Mr Rau, who represents First Data in the country, is likely to head the new payments company. First Data is a US-based company that has been created after banks farmed out their back office processing systems into a separate company. FDC is presently owned by private equity giant KKR.

The Reserve Bank of India has already given clearance for the deal. According to banking sources, the deal value has gone up after RBI said that merchant establishments, including grocery stores and supermarkets, could swipe customer cards and offer them cash.

In addition to unlocking value, ICICI Bank expects that the specialised company will bring down transactions costs and also grow the payment network more efficiently. This is the first time that an Indian bank has hived off its PoS terminal network.

So far it has been foreign banks that have outsourced these functions but their network is of much smaller scale.

ICICI Merchant Services will earn a fee every time a credit cards or debit cards transaction is processed through the point of sale network. The fee is usually borne by the merchant and a large part of it goes to the card issuing bank. This is in lieu of the credit that the issuing bank extends to the cardholder until the end of the billing cycle. A smaller part of the commission goes to the bank owning the PoS terminal (acquiring bank) and smaller portion to the payment company Mastercard or Visa.

Incidentally, State Bank of India has for some time expressed its intention to set up a network of half a million point of sales terminals. To build this network the bank had earlier sought partners. However, the project was shelved as the bank decided to take a more holistic approach of its payments business.