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Hitachi, MasterCard to set up smart card venture

Smart cards have built-in microprocessors and memory and are touted as more secure than conventional cards with magnetic strips.

TOKYO--Hitachi said on Friday that it would set up a joint venture this month with MasterCard International, Australia's Keycorp and a U.S. venture capital firm to promote advanced smart cards.

Japan's largest electronics conglomerate will invest $2.41 million to take an 18 percent stake in the venture, to be established in San Francisco.

MasterCard will take a 20 percent stake, while Keycorp, a provider of smart card operating systems, is set to hold 18 percent and Oak Hill Venture Partners will take the remaining 44 percent.

Smart cards have built-in microprocessors and memory for identification or financial transactions. They offer greater functionality and are generally more secure than conventional cards that use magnetic strips.

The venture will promote cards based on a multi-application operating system called Multos, which can add various functions such as biometric user identification to conventional cards.

Hitachi aims for its smart card-related business, such as equipment to read and write data on the cards, to total 80 billion yen in three years to March 2009.

Shares in Hitachi were down 1.3 percent at 815 yen by midday, slightly outperforming the Tokyo stock market's electrical machinery index, which fell 1.6 percent.

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