Visa CEO Says China Delays Opening Card-Payments Market

Visa Inc. Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf said China isn’t opening as quickly as expected to foreign payment processors and must be viewed as a five- to 15-year opportunity.

“It’s going to take a long time for the market to actually open up in a way that we actually do have that level playing field,” Scharf told analysts today in New York during an industry conference sponsored by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc.

Scharf plans to be in China next week and said the company needs to understand why the market hasn’t become more open to foreign firms. Visa, the world’s biggest bank-card network, has been in talks with U.S. and local officials, Chinese banks and China UnionPay Co., he said. UnionPay is a payment processor founded in Shanghai by the State Council and central bank that competes globally with Visa and MasterCard Inc.

Chinese law limits what Visa can do, Scharf said at his company’s annual meeting in January. “If you want to issue a card locally in China, denominated in the local currency, it has to be issued by a Chinese-owned company called China UnionPay,” said Scharf, 48.

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