Payment news, May 18

BoA Merrill, J.P. Morgan and RBS announce mandate wins, while China UnionPay expands across Asia.

J.P. Morgan expands trade and treasury solutions in Asia

J.P. Morgan announced a partnership with Cuscal, an Australian provider of wholesale transactional services, to create a new platform for customers' payment and receipt of foreign currency. Cuscal's clients will be able to offer international payment transfers with low transaction fees as a retail banking service to their own customers at competitive foreign exchange rates with this solution. The bank also installed a new liquidity and international demand deposit account management platform in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand and Singapore. The new platform provides more enhanced and efficient reporting for the bank's clients through new real-time capabilities.

"Our new liquidity management platform has been initially launched in Asia-Pacific locations as the region is a key area of focus for the firm," said Randy White, liquidity solutions executive at the bank, in a statement. "We will continue to deploy the J.P. Morgan Access liquidity solutions platform throughout this year in Asia, Europe and the US." J.P. Morgan expanded its treasury services in Malaysia with new staff and the availability of Access earlier this year.

The bank also joined its peers offering renminbi cross-border trade settlement services. J.P. Morgan will provide the services to its China-based corporate clients as a domestic settlement bank through its locally incorporated subsidiary, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank (China). Renminbi services will include letter of credit (LC) issuance and payment, export LC advising negotiation and confirmation and standby LC or bank guarantee.

Wrapping up a busy week of announcements for J.P. Morgan, Indonesia-based PT Bank Mega chose the American institution's clearing services for its commercial and treasury payment flows. Bank Mega will deploy J.P. Morgan's US dollar clearing Asia direct solution and payment-versus-payment settlement services for foreign exchange transactions, the latter was just introduced in Indonesia last month.

AirAsia implements RBS's multi-currency solution

AirAsia has implemented a multi-currency pricing platform using the Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) FXmicropay solution. Customers of Asia's largest low-cost carrier will be able to get instant ticket pricing in six currencies for online ticket purchases and the airline will be able to reduce foreign exchange volatility in its accounts.

"The enhanced online ticket sales platform will take away the uncertainty of exchange rates fluctuation for our guests, making the purchase of air tickets more convenient, straightforward and transparent," said Tony Fernandes, AirAsia group chief executive, in a statement. "We want our guests to have no surprises when they receive their credit card statements at the end of the month."

Initially, customers can select the US dollar, Singapore dollar, Hong Kong dollar, British pound and Australian dollar for their purchases, but AirAsia said it plans to add additional currencies in the future.

China UnionPay expands into five additional markets

Global Payments Asia-Pacific has expanded its acceptance of China UnionPay (CUP) cards to merchants in Brunei, the Maldives, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka. Chinese tourists who use the cards will now be able to make purchases in the new markets.

"Global Payments is the largest regional card merchant acquirer of China UnionPay by merchant base, and we are proud to extend our regional expertise in processing CUP card transactions to more markets across Asia-Pacific," said Ian Courtnage, president of Global Payments Asia-Pacific. "China is contributing significantly to outbound tourism in many Asian destinations and our merchants in those markets can now welcome more mainland Chinese tourists to their establishments by accepting CUP card payments."

The joint venture between US-based Global Payments and HSBC began accepting CUP cards six years ago in Hong Kong and has since expanded to Macau, Malaysia and Taiwan. To join the programme, merchant's need simply to add the CUP card acceptance functionality to their Global Payments' point of sale terminals.

ASM International awards mandate to BoA Merrill

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has won a mandate to provide global banking services to ASM International's subsidiaries, including those in Asia. The bank will provide the Netherlands-based semiconductor equipment manufacturer with a single global payments solution and a pan European liquidity management solution.

"In our search for a partner bank, we were impressed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch's global capabilities and its ability to deliver a high standard of service across markets, making the experience with the bank consistent no matter where we did business," said Rob Ruijter, chief financial officer of ASM International, in a statement.

BoA Merrill was recently awarded mandates for its treasury solutions from International SOS and the Brady Corporation in Asia.

JBIC signs MOU and adopts emergency measures

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Bank for Foreign Economic Activity of the Republic of Uzbekistan (NBU). The agreement creates a framework for the two institutions to investigate what they can do together to facilitate investments by Japanese firms in Uzbekistan. Both entities will share and exchange information and look into the possibility of financing new projects.

In addition, JBIC enacted operational measures to support Japanese firms' overseas business activities in response to the global financial crisis. The institution will provide supplier's credit to major Japanese firms to finance exports and loans for investment projects outside Japan. JBIC has already financed 59 loans or guarantees valued at ¥178.8 billion ($1.93 billion) to Japanese firms in developing countries and 63 loans or guarantees valued at ¥1,213.9 billion in industrialised countries.

txtNation expands services in Asia

txtNation has launched mobile payment services in several Asian countries. The provider of text message-based billing products to businesses is currently active in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand; services will be expanded to Indonesia and Vietnam later this month.

"We have managed to deploy and go live across several Asian countries in a combined roll out," said Michael Whelan, director of txtNation, in a statement. "This is another giant leap forward in our global connectivity offerings for premium rate SMS. We believe 2010 will be a year of fast and furious growth in the Asian market." 

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