UPDATE 1-Norwegian banks to combine payment units Vipps, BankAxept, BankID

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Nov 17 (Reuters) - DNB, banking group Eika, Sparebank 1 Gruppen and other Norwegian banks said on Friday:

* Norwegian banks agree to combine payment units Vipps, BankAxept and BankID Norge to improve product offering and prepare for competition against global tech firms

* Deal is preliminary, and ownership stakes are still being negotiated

* Also aim to promote their products abroad

* Today, the three companies are active in different stages of payment transactions

* “Through this undertaking, the Norwegian alternative is better positioned to compete against the major foreign players,” Vipps CEO Rune Garborg said

* DNB CEO Rune Bjerke said: “We have two choices. Either let the existing payments infrastructure wither away, or join forces and push forward.”

* The merger will improve cost efficiency, strengthen innovation and enhance users’ purchasing experience in the retail and consumer markets

* New company to have 108 employees

* Says payments market undergoing radical transformation with changes in consumer behavior, technological innovations and the regulatory environment. Global players already have a major presence in the Norwegian payments market, and technology giants are ready and waiting to capture a share of Norwegians’ payments

* The aim is to get the new company up and running by Aug. 1, 2018, pending approval from Norwegian authorities

* Changes in regulations from 2018 onwards make it possible for companies outside the banking industry to facilitate payments, with Apple, Facebook, Google and others seen as potential competitors Further company coverage: (Reporting by Ole Petter Skonnord, editing by Terje Solsvik)