Rebutting an Asian newspaper report, MasterCard International says its participation in the Guangzhou Golden Card project has been given the green light by the People's Bank of China.

In a telephone interview from Taiwan, Hung Fu (Hank) Chiang, MasterCard's senior vice president and general manager for Greater China, said he received a confirmation letter from People's Bank on Feb. 21.

A Hong Kong newspaper had reported Feb. 17 that People's Bank had ordered the Guangzhou government to cancel the deal reached with MasterCard in January. People's Bank reportedly felt the agreement violated national policy against giving foreign companies operational control in China.

In January, MasterCard said it won the bidding to develop and run the first of six projects in China aimed at improving credit card and debit card transaction processing there. The project will utilize MasterCard's new switching center in Guangzhou and serve the neighboring cities of Beijing and Shanghai.

Dismissing the Hong Kong article as inaccurate, a MasterCard spokeswoman in New York said the association has "received no notification to lead us in any way to believe that what has been reported over there is valid."

The association has described its role in Guangzhou as limited to technological and training assistance.

MasterCard says that Zhou Jialu, vice chairman of the Guangzhou Golden Card Project Committee, has reasserted his commitment to MasterCard's involvement in the process.

MasterCard has named Ling Teck Wah project manager of its Golden Card team. Mr. Ling, who will report to Mr. Chiang, is described as a banking systems expert with experience in emerging market requirements.

"Teck Wah has just the right mix of background in practical field work and theoretical experience," said Mr. Chiang.

Mr. Ling will lead MasterCard's technology transfer team, consisting of electronic payment systems specialists from MasterCard's Asia/Pacific offices in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore and the association's global operations and technology support department in New York and St. Louis.

Mr. Chiang expects that MasterCard will finish defining requirements of what is needed in Guangzhou by April. Officials estimate the project will be implemented by the end of July.

MasterCard has made a bid for a second Golden Card project scheduled for Beijing. The status of this initiative should be resolved by the end of April, according to Mr. Chiang.

Hoping to improve credit and debit transactions in China, the central government expects to implement six Golden Card projects.

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