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Gemplus partners for new markets

Adding strategic investors, French smart card manufacturer Gemplus announces that a GE subsidiary will acquire "a significant equity interest" in the company.

Adding strategic investors, French smart card manufacturer Gemplus today announced that GE Capital, a financial services subsidiary of General Electric (GE), will acquire "a significant equity interest" in the company.

The two companies will work together to develop new products and services, and GE will help Gemplus expand in new markets in Asia and the United States. Besides its financing activities, GE Capital is one of the world's leading issuers of private-label cards, and it is involved in many industries where smart card technology could be applied.

Gemplus has been adding strategic investors from manufacturing and service sectors to augment the venture capital investors that launched the firm in 1988, and the company suggests more manufacturing investors could be added soon.

Earlier this month, Gemplus announced that the French firm Dassault, which has an electronic fund transfer unit, will take a 9 percent stake in Gemplus and also develop new products. Dassault has civilian and military customers for its aeronautics, electronics, telecommunications, computer, and simulation businesses, and it has developed a smart-card reader.

Gemplus aims to expand into new markets, including health care, education, network security, the Internet, and electronic commerce.

In addition to its founders, Gemplus investors include Germany's Quandt family, which is active in magnetic stripe cards and DataCard personalization, and Singapore's government-controlled Singapore Technologies.

Gemplus Group, with $440 million in 1996 revenue, is the world's leading producer of plastic and smart cards with capacity to produce 900 million cards this year.

Its products include memory cards, microprocessor cards (both contact and contactless), magnetic stripe cards such as traditional credit cards, and electronic labels. It also designs and markets software, terminals and systems, and offers consulting and training services.