First Data Corp., accelerating its drive toward dominance in credit card processing, announced Wednesday that it had agreed to acquire Card Establishment Services Inc., one of the top three providers of transaction services to retail merchants.

First Data said it will pay about $500 million in stock and assume $180 million in debt upon the anticipated closing of the sale early next year. That transaction would set a record for a merchant processing company and rank among the highest prices paid for any credit card related business.

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