Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Visa in record US stock offering

Visa symbol on a credit card
Visa has benefited as more people use debit and credit cards

Visa has raised a record amount of money by issuing shares that will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The payment-card network sold 406 million shares at $44 each, raising $17.9bn (8.9bn) in the biggest initial public offering in the US to date.

The stock is expected to begin trading on Wednesday but demand for new shares has waned this year.

Of the sale proceeds, $10.2bn will be paid to the banks that own the card payment network.

Visa's IPO eclipses AT&T Wireless Group's $10.6bn stock offering in 2000 and ranks second in the world after the $22bn debut in 2006 of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China.

It raised more money than expected, with its shares initially forecast to sell between $37 and $42.

Plastic not cash

Visa's profits have grown as consumers pay for more purchases with credit and debit cards instead of cash.

Another $3bn of the money raised will be set aside to cover the costs of a variety of litigation that Visa is currently involved with.

That includes allegations of price-fixing from major retailers.

Last year, American Express accepted a payment of about $2.1bn from Visa, after claiming it had been illegally blocked from the US bank-issued card business.

If there is sufficient demand, Visa might sell additional shares and boost the potential size of the offering to $19.7bn.

The money raised dwarfs the listing of its rival Mastercard, which raised $2.4bn in May 2006.

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