First Data Corp., First USA Paymentech Inc., and GE Capital Services have agreed to invest a total of $12.5 million in First Virtual Holdings Inc.

First Virtual, based in San Diego, makes software and systems for sending secure financial transactions over the Internet.

First Data and First USA, are large credit card payment processing companies. GE Capital is the financial arm of General Electric Co.

"We expect that this partnership will enable First Virtual to significantly broaden its global marketing," said Lee Stein, chairman and chief executive officer of First Virtual. "This represents a tremendous vote of confidence in our system by three industry leaders."

As part of the investment announcement, First Virtual also said Pamela Patsley, chief executive officer of First USA, and John McKinley, chief technology officer of GE Capital, have joined First Virtual's board of directors.

First USA has been an equity partner in First Virtual since 1995.

First Virtual has forged several alliances with other companies since its formation in 1994, including Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Other investors include Sybase Inc. and National Direct Marketing Corp.

First Virtual said its Internet payment system, introduced two years ago, is used by 178,000 buyers and 2,500 merchants in 144 countries.

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