First Data Corp. is planning to close a division that sells credit reports to financial institutions and as a result will drop any ambition to compete directly with the major credit bureaus.

First Data launched its initiative in April 1997 by buying Consumer Credit Associates of Houston. By getting into the on-line credit bureau business, the Hackensack, N.J.-based transaction processing giant expected to gain advantages over credit reporting's Big Three: Equifax Inc., Experian Inc., and Trans Union Corp.

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