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The great ACH sell-off

With Sepa opening up choice of clearing infrastructure for banks in the euro-zone, many banks no longer see ownership of their national domestic infrastructures as necessary. Italy's SIA-SSB has appointed Citi as an advisor, as its major bank shareholders Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit look to sell. Atos Origin was recently named in press reports as an interested party.

If SIA-SSB does become majority owned by non-banks, it is going to be interesting to see how the relationship develops with EBA Clearing, for which operates the IT behind the STEP2 pan-European automated clearing house (PE-ACH).

The commercialisation of ACHs has been evident over the past few years, as the introduction of Sepa triggered a wave of cross-border and domestic mergers, as well as acquisitions of complementary businesses in software and payment cards.

Outside the eurozone, the UK's VocaLink (spun out as a commercial arm of the BACS clearing house and later merged with the bank-owned ATM network operator Link) is aggressively targeting expansion for its payment solutions in Europe. And it too is looking to open up ownership to non-banks, with an announcement expected in the next week or so.

It was reported back in March that VocaLink had appointed advisors to help it seek a new minority investor to help fund its European expansion plans by developing and marketing its €CSM partnership for Sepa-related services as well as the Faster Payments hub that went live in the UK in May.

According to a Sunday Times report the transaction would value the business at around £500 million. VocaLink spokesperson Richard Cooper said the process had taken a bit longer than anticipated - it first said it expected to close the deal in June - due to a significant level of interest, and the complexity of negotiations.

Finextra has heard that First Data was one of the companies in the frame, but there were certainly others. The identity of the investor and scale of the minority investment isn't yet publicly known. But you can be sure that given the latest round of financial results in the banking sector, any influx of cash is going to be welcome right now at the 20 UK banks and building societies that are currently VocaLink shareholders.

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Elton Cane

Elton Cane

Digital product delivery

News Corp Australia

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

SEPA and European Payments

The Single Euro Payments Area, the Payments Services Directive, the Eurosystem, TARGET2, STEP2, the Euro and related matters.


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