Industrial and Commercial Bank of China will operate as the first full franchise in China to issue and acquire Diners Club cards under an agreement announced today.

The deal between the largest credit card issuer in China and the business unit of Discover Financial Services brings a new Diners Club International franchise to the Asia Pacific region.

"As the world's largest card market with 3.1 billion cards in circulation, China is critically important to us as we continue to expand our global footprint," Diane Offereins, Discover's executive vice president and president of payment services, said in a press release Aug. 9. "ICBC's well-respected brand, successful banking operations and significant influence in China make them an attractive partner for us, and we believe their customers will benefit from the international network and services that Diners Club provides."

Diners Club cards are accepted in more than 185 countries and territories, in millions of merchant locations and in more than 845,000 ATMs and cash-access locations worldwide, the release notes.

"The launch of Diners Club cards will further enhance and optimize the product offerings of ICBC, meet the individual needs of customers, and provide more diverse scope of services to the cardholders," said Mr. Li Xiaopeng, ICBC executive director and vice president, said in the release.

Discover acquired Diners Club International from Citigroup in 2008. And earlier this month Citi sold its UK Diners Club franchise to Affiniture Cards Ltd., a UK-based private investor group. Citi sold its Diners Club North American franchise to BMO Financial Group in late 2009 in a deal that closed in January 2010. 

Discover has been working to expand acceptance of its brands for several years, and key pieces of the plan fell into place in 2009 when it in quick succession inked a series of card-acceptance agreements with regional ATM and point-of-sale networks in various parts of the world.

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