MasterCard in Wireless Payment Venture

PURCHASE, N.Y. - MasterCard International on Monday announced an agreement with 724 Solutions Inc., an Internet technology company, to develop software for conducting payment transactions through wireless devices.724 Solutions will incorporate payment functionality based on MasterCard's magnetic stripe and chip technology into its existing financial services platform and its digital wallet technology for mobile devices, which is under development.

The two companies plan to implement their mobile commerce solution in key markets with selected mobile operators and handset manufacturers in pilot tests later this year.

- Miriam Kreinin Souccar

Credit Suisse Plans a Bond Arbitrage Fund

LONDON - Credit Suisse First Boston is trying to tap growing demand for alternative asset management products by starting a convertible bond arbitrage fund, managed by CQS Group.The company, a unit of the Swiss financial services company Credit Suisse Group AG, is to invest $200 million in the fund and open investment to pension funds, foundations, and other institutional investors, as well as wealthy individuals.

CQS chief executive Michael Hintze is to manage investment and trading strategy for the new fund, and Credit Suisse First Boston is to supply risk management, marketing, and administration. The fund aims to return 20% a year.

Credit Suisse First Boston's new convertible bond arbitrage fund is the seventh alternative asset management fund that the company has arranged since 1994. Its other funds include four real estate and property portfolios, a global macro fund, and a principal finance fund.

- Bloomberg News

GE Buys Stake in Spanish Venture Capital Firm

NEW YORK - General Electric Capital Corp., the world's largest nonbank finance company, has bought 5.5% of Netjuice SA, a Spanish Internet-related venture capital company, for an undisclosed amount, a Netjuice spokeswoman said.The announcement came two months after Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA, Spain's biggest construction company, bought an 8.6% stake in the company for $7.5 million. In January the venture capital company 3i Group PLC bought 24.2% of Netjuice for $34.8 million.

NetJuice said in June that it hoped to raise $58 million within 18 months to fund investments.

Bancomer Adds Online Banking Services

MEXICO CITY - Grupo Financiero Bancomer SA, Mexico's second-largest bank, has begun offering a range of banking services via the Internet as it races to catch up with its main rival, Grupo Financiero Banamex-Accival SA.With an investment of $25 million, the banking company hopes to have 500,000 online clients by yearend, and it estimated that sales over the Web could reach $2 billion a year by 2003.

Bancomer clients, including businesses, will be able to carry out 400 types of transactions, from paying telephone bills to organizing and paying a company's payroll, over the Internet. The bank hopes to increase this soon to include online stock trading and other services.

- Bloomberg News

Italy Unit Grew Cautiously, Credit Suisse Says

MILAN - Credit Suisse Group, Europe's sixth-largest banking company, said it did not expand as aggressively as it could have in Italy last year, in order to avoid repeating errors that led to a fund management unit's losing its license in the country five years ago.The Swiss company said assets under management in its Italian unit more than doubled during 1999, to $2.44 billion.

The growth was slowed by the company's efforts to hire suitably qualified personal bankers, the people who advise customers on their investments. The company now has 250 personal bankers in Italy, and 13,500 customers.

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