First Data Corp. is moving deeper into the Mexican credit card market through a joint venture that will provide processing services to Mexican merchants.

It has signed a letter of intent to team up with Bancomer, Mexico's second-largest acquirer of merchant transactions. The bank serves more than 30,000 merchants, or 30% of the market.

The Hackensack, N.J.-based processing company had announced three previous deals in Mexico, which has the most advanced payment systems market in Latin America.

Earlier in the year, First Data signed processing agreements with Inverlat, Banco del Centro, and Bancomer, but none of those relationships involved merchant processing.

First Data Resources, the Omaha-based unit of First Data Corp. that is No. 1 in credit card account services for banks, will do the processing for the latest Mexican venture.

"This joint venture will create a competitive advantage by combining Bancomer's existing merchant relationships and vast distribution channels with our state-of-the-art processing services," said Aldo Tesi, president of First Data Resources.

First Data is not the only U.S. company with credit-market expertise establishing such relationships in Mexico.

For example, Banc One Corp. signed an agreement in 1992 with Banamex to form a joint processing company called Processador XXI.

The company is processing some of Banamex's private-label credit card accounts.

Similarly, in late 1993, Total System Services Inc., a Columbus, Ga.-based competitor of First Data Resources, formed a joint credit card processing venture with a Mexican banking association known as Prosa.

Nabanco, the No. 1 company in merchant processing and a subsidiary of First Financial Management Corp., Atlanta, entered the first such alliance in April 1993 -- a merchant services program with Inverlat.

Stewart A.C. Stockdale, vice president-Latin America for MasterCard International, said, "By the end of 1995, all of the Mexican banks will have formed some sort of alliance or processing venture with an American bank."

Mexican institutions are looking for expertise and technology for which American banks and other companies are noted, Mr. Stockdale said.

"Most of the processing there will be done with U.S. backing," he added.

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