U.K. antitrust agency eyes Visa’s Earthport deal

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Visa’s proposal to buy Earthport — which already survived a brief bidding war with Mastercard — is getting a closer look by the U.K.’s antitrust watchdog group.

The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Thursday said it’s investigating whether Visa’s $320 million purchase of Earthport, a U.K.-based cross-border payments provider, would lessen local market competition.

The CMA set a deadline of April 18 to gather comments from industry participants, aiming to wrap up this phase of its inquiry by June 4, 2019. Typically if competitive concerns emerge in the exploratory phase, a full investigation would follow.

A different U.K. regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, on March 25 unconditionally approved the deal.

Visa in December announced its intention to buy Earthport for $250 million. About a month later, Mastercard entered the fray offering a higher price for Earthport, prompting Visa in February to raise its offer.

Last month Mastercard dropped out of the Earthport bidding war and announced plans to instead purchase Transfast, a New York-based cross-border payments specialist.

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Compliance M&A Cross border payments Visa U.K.