Equifax Inc. of Atlanta announced an agreement last week to sell its Health EDI Services subsidiary, saying it wants to focus on core financial and insurance activities.

The buyer, National Data Corp., also of Atlanta, is a well-known information services provider to the banking industry.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Equifax said it decided to retreat from what it once saw as a potentially lucrative strategy synergetic with its credit bureau and other financial-related businesses.

Daniel W. McGlaughlin, president and chief executive of Equifax, said, "Our latest assessment of the health-care industry shows it's becoming more difficult to acquire firms and achieve scale, while in financial services and insurance information we already hold leadership positions."

Norman Black, an Equifax spokesman, said, "Prices that are being asked for and paid in the (health-care) industry have just ballooned."

National Data officials view the health-care unit as a better fit with their company, a processor of credit-card and other value- based transactions for retailing, financial, and health-care companies.

Equifax's unit relies on electronic data interchange technology to process some 40 million transactions annually, including insurance claims, remittance advices, and card payments.

National Data, which processes almost a billion health claims annually, may add as many as 40,000 participants to its network after the purchase - pending regulatory approval - is completed later this year.

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