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Visa Spending Rises To US$275 Billion In Asia/Pac

Visa Spending Rises To Us$275 Billion In Asia Pacific

For immediate release


Investment in emerging markets drives retail sales volume up 8.6 percent to new record high

8 April 2004 - Visa Asia Pacific announced that Retail Sales Volume, (RSV), or spending at the point of sale using Visa cards rose to a record US$275 billion during 2003, an increase of 9 percent over 2002. The total number of Visa-branded cards on issue in the region rose 10 percent to 203 million, and the number of transactions using Visa-branded cards increased 21 percent to 4.4 billion.

During 2003, Visa RSV rose in every Asia Pacific market with the fastest growth achieved in the fast developing markets of India - up 46 percent, Pakistan - up 41 percent, and Thailand - up 28 percent, while spending on Visa-branded international cards in China rose 149 percent. Visa Asia Pacific's biggest markets - Japan and Korea - were up eight percent and three percent respectively.

Visa Asia Pacific President and Chief Executive Officer Rupert Keeley said: "2003 was a very challenging year for Asia Pacific due to the impact of SARS and the war in Iraq, both of which depressed tourism and consumer confidence. Despite this, the number of people using Visa cards and the number of places accepting them rose to record levels.

"We saw tremendous growth in the fast developing markets of India and China where the payment industry is still in its relative infancy. By accelerating the development of efficient electronic networks in these and other fast-developing markets, Visa and its member financial institutions will continue to play an important role in realizing these countries' full economic potential."

Growth in Spending Across the Region

Korea, Visa's largest market in Asia Pacific for retail sales volume, saw RSV rise by only three percent to US$78.9 billion, reflecting a sharp contraction of the market in the face of well-publicized industry difficulties. Visa extended its lead over competing networks in Korea which saw falls in volume.

In Japan, aided by a gradual recovery in consumer confidence and economic activity, RSV increased to US$78.7 billion. Regulatory changes coming into force in April 2004, that will for the first time allow banks to issue credit cards, are expected to underpin continuing growth.

Among other major Asia Pacific markets, RSV rose 12 percent in Australia to US$61 billion, 12 percent in Taiwan to US$18 billion, 6 percent in Hong Kong to US$14 billion and 25 percent in New Zealand to US$6 billion.

China and India

In China there are two types of Visa-branded cards: those with full international functionality and those for domestic use only. RSV on internationally accepted cards - the only volume that Visa includes in its reported numbers - increased to US$1.1 billion in 2003 from US$430 million in 2002.

Rapid economic expansion made India the second fastest growing market in Asia Pacific in terms of card spending. RSV rose to US$1.7 billion, still small relative to the market's long-term potential, but helped by a series of Visa-led initiatives. During the year, Visa launched a program to supply merchants with low-cost, locally developed payment card terminals linked by a secure wireless network, and also worked with local financial institutions and merchants to increase acceptance of payment cards in the smaller cities.

Card Numbers Continue to Increase

The number of Visa-branded cards on issue rose in every Asia Pacific market except Korea. The fastest percentage growth was in India where the number of cards on issue increased by 83 percent to 16 million. Impressive growth was also achieved in the Philippines, where card numbers rose 42 percent to four million; and Thailand, where card numbers rose 38 percent to 10 million.

Among the biggest markets in terms of cards issued, Japan saw a 5 percent growth in the number of cards to 75 million, Taiwan's card numbers grew 19 percent to 22 million, Australia's rose one percent to 11 million, and Hong Kong's increased five percent to seven million.

Debit Growth Outpaces Credit

Growth in spending on debit cards once again outpaced that of credit. While spending on debit cards in Asia Pacific currently remains a fraction of that on credit cards, globally the two segments are approximately equal and significant growth is expected in debit volume in the coming years. Access to a choice of debit or credit cards is of particular significance in a region where many consumers remain outside the banking system, and are prey to the extremely high costs associated with informal and unregulated lending sources.

Growth in Premium Cards

Visa's two premium products, Visa Platinum and Visa Infinite, both reported rapid growth in card spending and card numbers during 2003. RSV for Visa Platinum rose by 128 percent across the region to US$11 billion while the number of Visa Platinum cards on issue rose 192 percent to 4.4 million.

The biggest market in Asia Pacific for Visa Platinum remains Taiwan where RSV rose 385 percent to US$5 billion. The number of Visa Platinum cards issued in Taiwan rose 265 percent to 3.4 million.

Visa Infinite, the exclusive super-premium card introduced by Visa Asia Pacific in March 2003, saw total card numbers rise to more than 10 thousand.

EMV Chip Cards Doubled in a Year

Visa has continued to lead the industry in the rollout of chip cards and chip-enabled terminals. By the end of February 2004, the number of Visa-branded smart cards in Asia Pacific based on the Europay-MasterCard-Visa (EMV) standard had climbed to 20 million - up from 10 million a year earlier. The number of chip-enabled terminals has been increased to 260,000 and there are now 28 million cardholders enrolled in Visa's online payment authentication service, Verified by Visa.

Looking Ahead

Keeley said, "After the challenges of 2003, the prospects for 2004 are promising. Most Asian economies are performing well and we are seeing good growth in travel and tourism where payment cards make a major economic contribution. We are continuing to invest substantially in initiatives to grow the payment card market across the region, with particular emphasis on opening new areas of acceptance in the emerging economies. We are also committed to deliver the latest in new technology to maintain the security of the rapidly growing global payments system."

Visa International

Visa is the world's leading payment brand generating nearly US$3 trillion spending at point of sale or withdrawn from ATMs. Visa has unsurpassed acceptance in more than 150 countries. The Visa organization plays a pivotal role in developing innovative payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions and their cardholders. Visa is a leader in Internet based payments and is pioneering the creation of u-commerce, or universal commerce, the ability to conduct commerce anywhere, anytime and any way. For more information, visit

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