Allied Irish Banks and First Data have signed an agreement to form a merchant acquiring joint venture, which will trade as AIB Merchant Services in the Republic of Ireland.

The new joint venture, based in Dublin, will provide card acquiring services in the Republic of Ireland, the UK and elsewhere in Europe and will deliver additional products and services and enhanced functionality to Allied Irish Banks’s (AIB’s) 30,000 merchant customers. It will also provide a compelling service offering for new merchants, enabling further expansion of the bank’s credit and debit card acquiring business, AIB said.

Completion of the transaction is conditional upon competition approval, which is expected before the end of 2007. As part of the agreement, First Data will have an option to enable the joint venture to acquire AIB’s card acquiring business in the UK. The total value of the gross assets of the Irish and UK businesses is approximately E5.5 million.

Donal Forde, managing director of AIB Bank, Republic of Ireland division, said: By partnering with a leading global player like First Data, we are positioning ourselves for substantial future growth in this business, in Ireland, the UK and further afield. The combination of AIB’s strong track record in this business and First Data’s global payments and merchant acquiring expertise and world-class systems will provide the ideal platform for business expansion and profitable growth in a single European payments area environment.

Nadeem Shaikh, president of First Data for Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, added: First Data seeks to partner with leading banks across Europe and we are delighted AIB selected us for this important new venture.