MasterCard International's smart card subsidiary on Friday announced the formation of Mondex France, with Credit Mutuel of Paris as 51% owner.

France becomes the second country in continental Europe, after Norway, with a Mondex franchise. It is especially significant because France is an established bank smart card market.

Credit Mutuel, France's second-largest card-issuing bank and largest merchant-acquirer, said it is planning a pilot test that will include the euro in a multicurrency Mondex framework, using the Multos multiple- application operating system.

Mondex and Credit Mutuel said they are in discussions with other potential Mondex France owners. As a major MasterCard issuer, Credit Mutuel competes with several large Visa banks that would be more closely tied to the Visa Cash program.

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