First Data Corp.'s merchant bank alliances are a big factor in the merchant processing business. Processing almost a third of credit card transactions at merchant sites, the joint ventures First Data has formed with 11 major banking companies have been the subject of continual debate over whether they are truly bank-friendly or simply a way for First Data to enrich itself and its shareholders.

Last month, when one of the allies left the fold, some merchant processing observers wondered if the juggernaut was running aground.

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