Visa files for $10 billion IPO

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Visa Inc, the world’s largest credit card network, filed with regulators on Friday to raise up to $10 billion in an initial public offering, in one of the largest and most eagerly awaited U.S. stock offerings.

A window bearing stickers of a Visa card is seen in Seoul. Visa Inc filed with regulators on Friday to raise up to $10 billion in an initial public offering of Class A common stock. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Visa announced the offering two days after agreeing to pay $2.1 billion to settle a three-year-old antitrust lawsuit with rival American Express Co AXP.N.

The card network did not reveal in its registration statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission when it plans to go public, how many shares it plans to offer, or the expected share price.

San Francisco-based Visa outlined plans in October 2006 to float a majority of the network, which is now owned by its 13,400 member banks, and at the time said it hoped to go public within 12 to 18 months.

On Wednesday, it agreed to settle a 2004 lawsuit that American Express filed against Visa, the smaller MasterCard Inc MA.N and eight banks charging them with anti-competitive practices.

The new publicly traded entity, Visa Inc, will combine Visa’s U.S., international and Canadian operations. Another affiliate. Visa Europe, will remain a membership organization and take a minority stake in Visa Inc.

Visa has said it plans to use IPO proceeds to fund expansion and an escrow account to help cover legal bills. The network and MasterCard face a variety of antitrust lawsuits from rivals and retailers, some of which accuse them of price fixing.

Visa's roots date to 1958 when a Bank of America Corp BAC.N predecessor created the blue, white and gold BankAmericard, helping pave the way for the modern credit card business. That card has evolved into Visa.

MasterCard went public in May 2006 in a $2.4 billion IPO and its shares have since risen roughly five-fold.

Morgan Stanley MS.N spun off its Discover Financial Services DFS.N, but those shares have fallen by about one-third.

Visa said Banc of America Securities, Citi, Goldman Sachs & Co, HSBC Securities USA Inc, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch & Co, UBS Investment Bank and Wachovia Securities are joint book-runners for the IPO.

Additional reporting by Karey Wutkowski