Oberthur Smart Cards has announced plans to buy De La Rue Group's card systems division for about $318 million.

The acquisition would expand Oberthur's reach into the Global Systems for Mobile Communications market, which is said to be one of the largest developing markets for chip technology.

Both Oberthur's parent company, Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire of France, and De La Rue of Great Britain, have similar backgrounds in magnetic stripe card manufacturing and printing.

Together the two companies will be able to better compete with the chip giants Gemplus Group and Schlumberger, a spokeswoman for Oberthur said.

The combined company will be called Oberthur Card Systems and employ 2800 people in 25 locations worldwide. The agreement is expected to go through in four to six weeks.

-- Miriam Kreinin Souccar

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