A unit of Equifax Inc. is teaming up with International Business Machines Corp. to expand its credit and debit card services business internationally.

The alliance, announced this week, is designed to allow Equifax's FBS Software subsidiary to penetrate new markets and enhance its sales capability without having to hire new people.

And through FBS, which has operations in 24 countries but a relatively meager sales force, IBM gains access to an existing base of card-related business and hopes to capitalize on an anticipated "explosion of credit and debit card use around the world," said IBM spokeswoman Anne Keogh.

Through a revenue-sharing agreement, IBM sales people will offer FBS products to clients that are either issuing credit and debit cards or want to enter those businesses.

The computer giant offers data, voice, and video network services in 700 cities in 100 countries, serving 25,000 corporate customers around the world.

Initially, FBS and IBM will focus on Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, regions supervised by Bob Rosenthal, IBM's business manager for card systems. Eventually, the companies want their venture to encompass Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America.

Thomas F. Chapman, Equifax executive vice president, said the alliance will help Equifax enter some new and rapidly growing markets for card-related systems. In some markets the partners will be the first and only companies offering card processing services, said Mr. Chapman, who recently added international responsibilities in his role as head of Atlanta-based Equifax's financial services group.

Internationally, Equifax expects a dramatic increase in sales and revenues because "IBM is working for us," said Equifax spokesman Norman Black.

"Even if IBM doesn't sell its hardware," added Mr. Black, "it could still sell FBS' software to potential clients."

The current agreement allows financial institutions to purchase software from FBS, but in the future Mr. Chapman hopes that IBM and FBS can become outsourcing providers - offering processing support to card issuers that don't want to run their own back offices.

The alliance's customers could include retailers and petroleum marketers as well as financial institutions.

Equifax, through the card services unit that reports to Mr. Chapman, has card processing experience in the United States, mainly as a niche provider to independent banks and credit unions. Its market share thus does not approach those of the industry leaders, First Data Corp. and Total System Services Inc.

FBS, an Atlanta company acquired by Equifax in 1994, provides software for card account processing, collections, and merchant-acquiring operations. Its customers include Wachovia Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Barclays Bank of London, Bank of Nova Scotia, and Westpac Banking Corp. of Australia.

IBM and Equifax have worked together since 1993.

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