The European arm of the credit card specialist MBNA Corp. said Monday that it has agreed to buy Abbey Nationals credit card business for $413 million, which includes a $64 million premium.
The deal also features what is reported to be a five-year agreement for MBNA Europe Bank Ltd. to be an agent bank for Abbey National, meaning it will run the British banks cards program and issue cards under the Abbey National brand and Abbey will receive commissions from card sales and a share of profits. MBNA and other large U.S. credit card companies have many similar agent deals in the United States, but this is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.
We look for portfolios where we can get into a long-term relationship. This is perfect, said Brian Dalphon, a spokesman for MBNA Corp. of Wilmington, Del. He likened the deal to arrangements MBNA has with First Union Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc.
Abbey Nationals 500,000 card accounts for about 1.2% of the United Kingdoms 42 million credit cards. The London bank also offers mortgages, savings, and other products to 15 million retail customers. MBNA issues more than three million cards in the United Kingdom under its own brand.
MBNA said it plans to offer new products in the United Kingdom, including cash-back cards, to boost its own and Abbey Nationals market share. These cards were first offered in the United Kingdom in 1999 by another U.S. company, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., which issues the cash-back Discover card in the United States and a Morgan Stanley MasterCard in the United Kingdom.
MBNA said it will also push other U.S. inventions, such as the platinum card, to Abbey National customers.
The 18.5% premium that MBNA agreed to pay on Abbey Nationals receivables matches the average portfolio premium paid in 2000 in the United States, said Robert Hammer, chairman and chief executive officer of R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
This is a continuation of an existing strategy that has worked for them, Mr. Hammer said. They are very savvy, and this is a very smart thing to do.
Mr. Dalphon said the marketing deal is long-term but would not say just how long. A Reuters report from London identified it as a five-year agreement.
In a press release, Abbey National said it will receive a commission on each new credit card account opened and that the partnerships lifetime value is expected to be several times the value of the premium on the sale of the asset.
It said the co-marketing arrangement will shake up the U.K. credit card market by delivering more choice to consumers there.
Abbeys larger rival, Halifax Group PLC, bought Bank One Corp.s U.K. credit card business last year, adding about 200,000 customers to the 1.2 million cards it had in issuance at the time.