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Visa forms separate Net unit

The new unit, aimed at boosting the company's e-commerce efforts, will help its partners differentiate themselves and compete online.

Stepping up its e-commerce efforts, Visa USA today launched eVisa, a separate Internet unit.

The new unit, led by Visa's former chief marketing officer Michael Beindorff, will focus on helping its bank members differentiate themselves and compete online. It also is charged with boosting acceptance of the Visa brand among merchants by developing online standards and technology and new products, said Sean Healy, a company spokesman.

The unit will have an advisory board composed of about ten senior executives from Internet companies, from its bank membership, and from online merchants to provide direction and technology expertise on eVisa's strategic plan, Healy said. He declined to specify which companies except to say that the panel will be finalized in the next two weeks.

Visa said the unit is set to launch a new Web-based payment gateway that will accept all payment cards and process transactions over Visa's processing system, while providing Visa incentives to merchants who designate it as their default payment card for online transactions. eVisa also will focus on enabling more merchants to install a secure network for safer online transactions at a low cost.

In addition, the new unit will enhance efforts to market digital wallet technology, which allows consumers to easily send secure payment information to online merchants from their PCs.

The company has invested in an ad campaign for its new unit. Television ads are set to run over the next year that will feature several Visa online partners, the company said.

To date, the company claims Visa payment cards account for about 52 percent of all online sales volume in the United States. The company expects its new unit to build Visa's market leadership to nearly 60 percent over the next four years.