Mellon Bank Corp. has decided to buy an equity interest in Electronic Payment Services Inc., making it a partner in what is shaping up as the most powerful force in retail electronic banking.

Mellon said it signed a definitive agreement to take a 23.66% interest in the company that owns MAC, which processes more transactions through its central switch than any other regional automated teller machine network. The Pittsburgh bank would become the fifth super-regional in the joint venture, with a sixth partner - Cleveland's National City Corp. - coming aboard later.

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