BEIJING - Schlumberger Smart Cards and Systems said it signed a letter of intent to participate in the golden card project, an ambitious plan sponsored by the Chinese government to modernize its consumer payment systems.

Hua Xu Golden Card Co., the government's contractor, selected Schlumberger to provide expert assistance and help engineers begin feasibility studies and planning.

With Chinese authorities anticipating 200 million credit cards in the country by the year 2003, Schlumberger noted that it has the potential of becoming the world's largest smart card market.

Schlumberger, one of the major chip card vendors, will be introducing the technology to Hua Xu engineers for evaluation. To mark the start of their alliance, the two companies exhibited together at a technology exhibition last month in Beijing.

Warren Liu, an executive of Schlumberger Measurement and Systems Asia, said he expects the project "will set an influential example for all the world's developing economies."

The French company has already been selected to supply 120,000 smart cards for use in cellular telephones in Guangdong Province, Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Hainan, and Hubei.

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