The Interac Association has hired a Wall Street investment bank to help it restructure into a for-profit company, should regulators allow, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Thursday.
Interac, which manages debit cards and bank machines and is a major force in how consumers pay for retail purchases in Canada, has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co to figure out how many shares each of its members -- which include the big banks -- would receive if Interac won approval for the conversion.
Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said Interac was waiting for a ruling from the Competition Bureau to transition to for-profit status as executives scramble to react to moves by MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc to begin issuing debit cards in the Canadian market.
Years ago, Interac agreed, under competition rules, to run Canada's debt and bank machine business on a breakeven basis in a cooperative agreement with the banks. Executives are now arguing it needs more capital to compete with MasterCard and Visa, the Globe said.
A spokeswoman for Interac did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Canadians use debit cards more than any other country except Sweden, the newspaper said. Last year, Interac processed nearly 4 billion direct payment transactions, for a total of C$168 million ($160 million) in sales.
Bank of Montreal has already issued debit cards that can be used on MasterCard's debit system. Visa is expected to follow within months, possibly with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as its partner, the Globe said.
(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)