As part of its expansion drive in the Levant region, Visa International has established a new regional base to facilitate stronger ties with its member banks in Lebanon and Jordan.
Housed in Amman, the new operations will be headed by general manager, Said Shuqom, who highlighted the growing trend of card payments in the region: "The number of times a Visa card is used by Lebanon cardholders has grown incredibly - in just four years, transaction numbers grew 10 fold from around 620,000 in March 1999 to reach over six million at the end of the first quarter this year."
According to Visa's annual figures, Lebanon was the second fastest growing market across Middle East in terms of transaction numbers as of March 2003, growing by 54 percent compared to the same period in 2002, thereby beating other countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which recorded growth rates of 43 percent and 14 percent respectively.
"Lebanese cardholders continue to use Visa for regular payments pushing up total expenditure volumes by 58 percent to reach over one billion dollars in the last year." Vice President of Visa International in the Middle East, Jonathon Cabedo. Heattributes this to the increased use of cards for everyday spending such as grocery, clothing and other day-to-day purchases rather than just for high purchases such as travel and entertainment.
As seen in most parts of the world, Lebanon cardholder payment patterns indicate a strong move towards retail spending. Cardholders are fast breaking the cash habit as illustrated by a 36 percent increase in transactions made at shops, restaurants and other retail locations in the last year which generated 27 percent higher spending volumes.
"From March 2002 to March 2003 Visa cards in circulation have increase by 54 percent to 331000 in number, the majority of which are debit cards such as Visa Electron. Traditionally perceived as an ATM card, Visa Electron cards are today largely used for everyday shopping," said Cabedo.
He added that rise in card numbers were complemented by the country's widespread acceptance infrastructure offering a far greater choice of locations to use cards as a payment tool. As of 31 March 2003, this figure stood at 12,000 locations, an impressive network considering the geographical size of Lebanon.
On the technology front, Shuqom stressed that the region will see further growth in the area of chip cards, "Lebanon was the first country in Middle East where Visa chip cards were introduced in 2000 by a consortium of seven local banks who brought new meaning to security of card payments. "Since then, chip card numbers have increased to 50,000, and are anticipated to rise further in advance of the EMV compliance deadline in year 2006.
Visa is an international payment brand, generating more than $2.3 trillion in annual volume. With its 21,000 member financial institutions and their cardholders, Visa is also operating Internet based payments. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )