DEC. 20, 10:31 A.M. -- Verisign Inc., a pioneering marketer of digital certificates for Internet transaction security, announced more than $1 billion worth of acquisitions Monday morning.

The Mountain View, Calif., company said it agreed to issue 5.6 million shares, worth about $733 million at the pre-opening stock price, for Signio Inc., a privately held company that offers an extensive menu of business-to-business and consumer payment services, with links to major credit and debit card processors. Signio, formerly known as PaymentNet and partly owned by Intuit Inc., Bank of America Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co., said it has nearly 2,000 merchant clients and 200 resellers.

The deal is likely to put Verisign in closer competition with companies it might also be cooperative with, such as Cybercash Inc. and Trintech Group. The latter only a few weeks ago announced an agreement to more closely integrate digital certificates into on-line credit card software.

"Customers are looking to deploy trusted, reliable, and frictionless payment solutions," said Verisign president and chief executive officer Stratton Sclavos. "Signio's industry-leading payment services and deep relationships with payment enablers allows us to expand our range of service offerings and further build out the trust infrastructure for the Internet."

In the second deal, closer to its core market, Verisign said it would pay $575 million in stock for Thawte Consulting of South Africa, billed as the second-largest provider of digital certificates to Web sites and software developers. Though not as well known in the United States, Thawte has widely distributed its certificate technology in Web browser and merchant software, making it a major factor in the movement toward global interoperability in e-commerce. The merger was described as an opportunity to "implement a consistent set of global standards" for digital credentials.

The acquisition is in keeping with Versign's "mission since day one [to establish] a consistent, globally interoperable trust infrastructure for the Internet," Mr. Sclavos said.

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