MasterCard Inc. and Spanish telecom giant Telefónica SA today announced the creation of a joint venture providing mobile financial solutions to customers in Latin America.

According to the announcement, each partner will own 50 percent of the new venture. The new entity will be managed independently. Janet Rivera-Hernandez from MasterCard’s Investor Relations group said in an e-mail that the new company’s name is still being defined.

Telefónica is one of the world’s largest telecom providers, with headquarters in Madrid, Spain, and a presence in 25 countries — mostly in Central and South America. MasterCard, based in Purchase, N.Y., is one of the world’s largest payment networks and processed over $2.5 trillion on its products in 2009. 

The new company will provide services in 12 countries in Latin America where Telefónica operates its Movistar wireless network. Services from the company will include mobile payments that will be tied to prepaid accounts and will also include money transfers, mobile airtime reloads, bill payments and retail purchases.

The joint venture will be aimed particularly at the large percentage of people in Latin American countries with little or no access to traditional banking. According to the release, customers in Latin America see mobile phones as both convenient and safe. Telefónica  and Mastercard expect that the new venture will spread electronic payments to traditionally cash-based transactions such as street vendors and taxis. 

"By offering mobile financial solutions, we are fully responding to the demands of the population in Latin America that trusts in their mobile phone to conduct financial operations," Telefónica's Global Head of Financial Services, Joaquin Mata, said in the announcement. "This joint venture places Telefónica in a solid position to lead the development of mobile financial solutions in Latin America."

The announcement cites a research study that estimates mobile financial transactions in Latin America will reach almost $63 billion by 2014. That figure compares to a recent estimate by American-based Aite Group that total U.S. mobile payments are expected to hit $162 billion by 2014. 



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