In a move
underlining the burgeoning use of payment cards in the Middle East
region, Japanese card consortium JCB has teamed up with Japanese
financial services group Orix and property development group Majid
Al Futtaim Group (MAF) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to form a
joint venture for a credit card business in the Middle East and
North Africa (MENA) region.

Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, the venture – MAF JCB Card – will
start issuing JCB cards from July 2007, and will also develop JCB
licence partners for JCB card issuing and merchant acquiring
businesses.

The new venture will have a capitalisation of AED100 million ($27
million). MAF will own 60 percent of the venture, while Orix and
JCB will own 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively. The UAE is
Japan’s largest crude oil supplier, and imports automobiles,
electric appliances and other products from Japan, forming economic
ties between the two countries. The venture is also aimed at
capitalising on the UAE’s importance as a tourist destination,
particularly for Japanese visitors.

JCB builds Middle East presence

MAF JCB Card will target existing and potential MAF customers in
the UAE for an estimated 150,000 cards in five years, and will soon
expand to another target area. JCB has been actively building its
presence in the Middle East since 1987, and in 2005 the first JCB
card in the Middle East region was issued in Bahrain.

To enhance its acceptance network in the UAE, JCB signed acquiring
agreements with major partners such as Mashreq Bank in 1996,
National Bank of Dubai in 1997 and Network International in
December 2006.

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By GlobalData

MAF, which specialises in developing shopping centres and
entertainment complexes, owns the franchise licence for the French
hypermarket chain Carrefour in the MENA region, along with other
shopping, entertainment and leisure facilities. As part of Orix’s
strategy in the MENA region, Orix joined MAF to create MAF Orix
Financial in the UAE in 2002. Orix and MAF currently operate joint
ventures in four countries.

Hiroya Nobuhara, president and CEO of JCB, said: “This is a big
step for JCB in expanding its operations in the MENA region. For
the first time since JCB launched its international operations in
1981, it is taking this step by establishing a joint venture with
the most prominent partners. I am thrilled that the number of JCB
licence partners and cardmembers will be soon significantly
increasing in the market where JCB has been paying particular
attention.”

Yasuhiko Fujiki, president and chief operating officer of Orix,
said: “Orix and JCB have had a comprehensive business tie-up since
2005. This is a significant milestone for us as the new company in
the UAE is going to be our first joint venture outside Japan under
this partnership.”

Fujiki added that MENA has been a target market for Orix as well as
for JCB. Since the establishment of its leasing business in
Pakistan in 1986, Orix has set up six offices including joint
ventures in five countries in the MENA region. Fujiki said that he
anticipates the joint business with JCB in the UAE will generate
good synergies for both of their businesses in the MENA
region.

Ahmed Bin Brek, CEO of MAF Ventures, said: “This initiative marks a
new direction for Majid Al Futtaim Group and extends its customer
offering. We are proud to have as our partners two of Japan’s
finest financial institutions and their involvement signals our
determination to offer a premium service to users of the group’s
malls and other customers throughout the MENA region. In terms of
our strategy this joint venture is a stand-alone project with
obvious synergies with the group’s core activities. It will drive
revenue for the company while increasing our customers’ buying
power.”

JCB targets overseas markets

JCB is the largest card issuer and acquirer in Japan and over the
past two years has been expanding its presence overseas. JCB cards
are now issued in 19 countries and territories, with more than 59
million cardmembers worldwide.

As part of its international growth strategy, JCB has formed
alliances with more than 350 banks and financial institutions in
order to increase its merchant coverage and cardmember base. In
August 2006, JCB entered into a strategic relationship with
Discover of the US to enable acceptance of JCB cards on the
Discover Network. From 2007, Discover will begin enabling its
systems so JCB cardholders will be able to use their JCB cards at
Discover Network merchant locations throughout the US. Upon
completion of a JCB system enhancement, Discover Network
cardholders will be able to use their cards for purchases at JCB
merchant locations and for cash advances at targeted ATMs
throughout Japan beginning in 2008.