Mondex International Ltd. has completed a long-awaited agreement to enter the Japanese market.

The London-based smart card organization, which is 51%-owned by MasterCard International, said Sanwa Bank Ltd. and the joint credit card venture JCB are the first members of Mondex Japan.

Those companies together will own a majority of the franchise, with MasterCard taking a minority interest. Mondex said it expects to widen the ownership and is in advanced discussions with Asahi Bank and Sakura Bank.

Japan had been a major void in the global electronic cash network. In advance of the official Japanese announcement Monday, Mondex chief executive officer Michael Keegan said that of the Group of Seven industrialized countries, Mondex is still absent in Germany and Italy.

Japan's is the 15th Mondex franchise in the Asia-Pacific region and 58th globally.

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