Visa mulls $19 Bn IPO

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New York: Credit card network VISA may raise up to $18.8 billion in the largest-ever initial public offering (IPO). The move comes amid concerns that the global credit crunch could eat into card volumes. The company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to sell 406 million Class A shares at $37 to $42 each, resulting in $15 billion to $17.1 billion of proceeds. Visa said it might sell another 40.6 million shares to meet demand, boosting the IPO?s potential size to $18.8 billion.

San Francisco based Visa plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "V." Visa's offering has got a risky timing as possibilities of the U.S. economy entering a recession have chilled investor demand for stocks and IPOs.

John Augustine, chief investment strategist at Fifth Third Private Bank in Cincinnati, said, "The downside to the Visa offering may be the timing. Our fear is that as credit deteriorates, consumer spending will go down, and volumes will go down for the card networks. That would hurt revenue and profit."

The stock has risen by about one-fourth since mid-2007, even as the credit crisis began to widen beyond subprime mortgages. The Standard & Poor's financial index is down about the same amount over that time. Visa is controlled by about 13,300 member banks and finance companies. Many of these are struggling with mounting credit losses, and some with capital shortfalls.

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