People's Bank of Bridgeport, Conn., may soon follow in the tracks of MBNA Corp., Advanta Corp., and Household International by opening a credit- card operation in the United Kingdom.

The 28th-largest credit card issuer in the United States filed applications with several regulatory agencies in October and November to establish a branch office in the U.K. It would be the thrift's first foray into international markets.

People's Bank wants to focus at first on issuing credit cards, but it may also be interested in offering other products.

"Other services that we might engage in require another level of commitment," said John A. Klein, executive vice president of consumer banking at People's Bank.

Starting with a credit-card operation affords People's a quicker return on its investment, he said.

"We have all seen the success that MBNA and Household have had," said Mr. Klein. "Their experience would show that there is room (in the United Kingdom) for an additional player."

Credit-card specialist MBNA began issuing credit cards in the United Kingdom more than two years ago, expecting to reach $1 billion in receivables by the end of this decade, said Bear Stearns analyst Susan L. Roth. Instead, MBNA is expected to reach its goal within the next six months.

The United Kingdom is considered a mature credit-card market. But Mr. Klein pointed out that only seven or eight issuers control most of the market.

Debit-card usage is more popular in Europe, though Ms. Roth maintains that Europeans aren't unwilling to use credit cards - they simply haven't been offered competitive credit products, she said.

Ronald T. Urquhart, first vice president of consumer credit at People's Bank, is in charge of its card business. He has been traveling to the United Kingdom over the last few months to oversee the progress of the start-up initiative.

The regulatory process could take 90 to 120 days, said Mr. Klein.

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