Mastercard's open U.K. ATM policy allows Vocalink deal to proceed

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Mastercard has assured its Link ATM in the U.K. will be open to other providers, helping it clear what had been a temporary regulatory roadblock holding up its $920 million acquisition of Vocalink in the U.K. announced last year.

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority approved the acquisition of Vocalink based on the card brand's vow to open connections to the ATM network, and transfer or license the intellectual property rights of the Link Liss messaging standard. Mastercard also agreed to contribute to Link ATM members' switching costs.

The CMA's investigation into the competitive threats posed by Mastercard's Link ATM operations lasted four months, but early in the process the regulators indicated the issue could be resolved if Mastercard was willing to open its ATM network.
In the meantime, Mastercard has been able to position itself at the center of faster payments initiatives and other emerging technologies in the U.K through the acquisition of the key player in those processes. Prior to the acquisition, Visa clearly had an upper hand through its reunification with Visa Europe.

"We believe the future of payments will be defined by choice," Michael Miebach, chief product officer of Mastercard, said in a April 11 press release. "Adding bank account-based payments alongside our card network extends what we can do and how we can do it. Together, we’ll be one partner to meet all payment needs of businesses, governments and consumers."

The acquisition is expected to be official within weeks, the release stated.

The CMA had feared that the acquisition would give Mastercard too much of an advantage when it comes to bidding for contracts in the provision of infrastructure services to Link, which accounts for 70,000 cash machines across the UK and Europe.

Vocalink and Mastercard are two of just three credible providers of the hardware, software and secure telecommunications networks for the Link ATMs, with the third being Visa, the CMA said.

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