With an agreement to provide digital certificates for a test of the Secure Electronic Transactions protocol in South Africa, Verisign Inc. said it will be the first company to issue SET-compliant certificates under both the MasterCard and Visa brands.

Amalgamated Banks of South Africa, the biggest banking group in the country, plans to launch a pilot July 1 and have as many as five merchants and 1,000 MasterCard customers by yearend.

Persetel, Verisign's South African affiliate, will issue the SET certificates that use RSA Data Security Inc. algorithms to authenticate merchants and cardholders.

While SET standards are common across brands and systems, Verisign has been more closely associated with Visa International, one of the early investors in the company. Visa designated Verisign the preferred vendor for Visa-branded certificates, while MasterCard gave a similar nod to GTE Corp.'s Cybertrust unit.

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