Mastercard and UK banks strike 40m Access deal

By Sean Brierley

Mastercard International will sign a landmark deal with UK banks next week to purchase the Access brand for an estimated 40m.The deal will effectively kill the brand.

The deal was supposed to be concluded yesterday (Tuesday), but according to sources close to negotiations, there were “last-minute hitches”. The talks opened more than 12 months ago.

It is understood the banks will receive a proportionate share of the offer. The big three – Midland, NatWest and Lloyd’s – own 30 per cent each of Access. The Royal Bank of Scotland holds the remaining ten per cent.

All advertising for the 24 year-old Access brand ceased this year, while negotiations continued. It is thought no new Access cards will be issued after the deal is signed, but Access will still be accepted for two years while existing cards expire.

Mastercard is understood to be closing the Access operation in Billericay, Essex, but expanding Mastercard’s UK marketing presence. In return, the UK banks will increase support for the payment system.

Mastercard’s UK operation is run through Mastercard Europay UK (MEPUK); it holds a 50 per cent share in Europay, whose headquarters are in Brussels.

It is thought the banks stipulated that conclusion of the Access deal was a prerequisite for funding of Mastercard’s 15m advertising campaign to support its Euro 96 sponsorship.

Last week, final approval was given to the first burst of TV advertising for Mastercard’s Euro 96 advertising, which breaks in two weeks’ time. Access, with more than 7 million credit card holders in the UK, is second only to Barclaycard which has 9 million.

A spokesman for Mastercard would not comment on the timing of the deal, but said that it has not been finalised.