European banks are considering cutting their ties with Visa Europe to set up an alternative bankcard scheme, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
Citing 'people familiar with the matter', the business broadsheet states that a Visa Europe board meeting to discuss whether the group will exercise its option to sell the business to its US counterpart Visa Inc is scheduled for April.
While they share the same brand, Visa Europe and Visa Inc are separate entities, with the US business listed on the new York Stock Exchange. Visa Inc. has a call option to buy shares in the bank-owned European organisation, while Visa Europe's members have a put option to sell them to Visa Inc.
Discussions among European banks to exercise the option have reached an advanced stage, states the WSJ source, following a meeting in London this month between banks and their advisors.
The European Central Bank has been pressurising the bloc's banks to set up an alternative card scheme that would break the Visa/MasterCard duopoly and speed up the move to a Single European Payment Area (Sepa) for debit cards. The ECB points to China UnionPay as an example of a new bankcard brand that can quickly gain acceptance with cardholders.
A sale of Visa Europe would likely yield $3 billion and provide a monumental headache for Visa Inc in handling integration and regulatory issues.