Chase Manhattan Corp. has inked a deal with Checkfree Corp. that will let the bank present electronic bills to its customers on behalf of merchants and utilities.

The service, scheduled to be available in the first quarter, will enable customers using Chase's Web site to view their bills from participating companies and initiate on-line payments.

"We want to provide customers with a product that could make life easier by eliminating the paper," said Ronald Braco, senior vice president of electronic commerce at Chase.

The bank's credit card and mortgage units will be among the first billers on the system, but Chase expects that many of its corporate customers will be drawn to presenting bills electronically.

"Because of the leadership position that Chase has, this is the model that the banking industry will look to for electronic bill presentment," said Checkfree vice president Matthew Lewis.

The billing companies will pay fees that Chase and Checkfree will share.

The agreement is a vote of confidence in Checkfree's strategy to become a "large watering hole where bills can be presented," said Mary R. Craft, an analyst with BancAmerica Robertson Stephens in San Francisco.

The $352 billion-asset Chase has more than 150,000 on-line banking customers. It expects that number to grow to 250,000 by yearend.

The Checkfree deal is nonexclusive. Chase is on the advisory board of MSFDC, the competing bill payment and presentment joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and First Data Corp.

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