Visa Europe has merged its operations in France with the payment services provider SAS Carte Bleue to create Visa France.

Visa Europe said the move, announced Tuesday, would help it develop more direct relationships with French banks.

Visa Europe licenses the card network's brand name, and is not a unit of the San Francisco payments company Visa Inc.

Carte Bleue has marketed Visa products in France for 35 years, and said its Carte Bleue Visa is the leading bank card brand in France.

"This is the ideal development of a successful relationship" with Carte Bleue, Peter Ayliffe, Visa Europe's president and chief executive, said in a press release. "It recognizes that the strength of Visa Europe's association model delivers a truly European owned and controlled payments system."

The merger is subject to approval from the French competition and tax authorities.

Ayliffe said that French banks will benefit from "a Sepa-compliant development of their card payments business in France with local control." The Single Euro Payments Area initiative covers card transactions, direct debits and credit transfers, and is designed to create a cross-border market for electronic payments.

Some banks in France have been reluctant to support direct debits under Sepa, according to survey results released last year by the credit bureau Experian PLC, which is headquartered in Dublin.

Visa France will offer banks products and services customized for the French market, and will form a national organization open to all French Visa issuers that will "provide local governance on domestic Visa matters," according to the press release.

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