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HSBC Takes Out Metris

Updated from 8:52 a.m. EDT

Another acquisition deal has been struck in the credit space, and this time Metris (MXT) is the company getting the takeover bid.

HSBC Finance agreed to acquire Metris in an all-cash transaction that values the credit-card issuer at $15 a share, for a total of $1.59 billion.

Shares of Metris closed Wednesday at $14.84. The stock has a 52-week range of $5.70 to $15.28.

HSBC Finance, based in Prospect Heights, Ill., is the sixth-largest issuer of MasterCard and Visa cards in the nation. Metris, of Minnetonka, Minn., is the 11th-largest issuer of MasterCard and Visa cards in the U.S., with managed receivables of around $5.9 billion.

Metris stockholders will get $15 a share if the transaction closes by Dec. 9. After that date, the price per common share will decrease by an amount based on the dividends that accrue on Metris' Series C preferred shares.

The companies expect to close the deal in the fourth quarter. HSBC Finance is part of London-based HSBC Holdings (HBC).

The acquisition is the latest in a trend that's been emerging in the card industry in recent months. In June, mortgage giant Washington Mutual (WM) set plans to buy Providian (PVN), a big independent credit-card issuer, for $6.45 billion.

Also, Bank of America (BAC) has reached a pact to acquire card issuer MBNA (KRB) in a $35 billion deal.

Last month, Metris was notified that the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission was planning to recommend that a civil injunction be brought against the company for possible violations of federal securities laws.

The notice related to an investigation Metris disclosed in August 2003, and it also covered CEO David Wesselink and Mark Wagener, the company's controller.

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