Visa Inches Toward IPO

The credit card network files some restructuring plans.
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made its first steps towards an initial public offering on Friday.

The San Francisco credit card company offered detailed plans on how it will restructure the business, in a filing with the

Securities and Exchange Commission


The company plans to combine several subsidiaries, including Visa Canada, Visa International and Visa USA, into a single private stock company called Visa Inc. Visa Europe will remain a membership association.

"Once the SEC has completed its review and declared the registration statement effective, Visa will undertake a global process to secure member approval of the restructuring," the company said in a press release.

Visa's plans for an IPO come at a time when interest in credit card companies has been high.

Shares of


(MA) - Get Report

, Visa's rival, have quadrupled since May 2006, when the Purchase, N.Y., company came public at $39 a share.

At the end of the month,

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

is spinning off its slower-growth credit card business, Discover Financial Services. The stock is currently trading on a "when-issued" basis.

Discover has a slightly different business model than MasterCard and Visa. Besides being a card issuer, it also has a payments network behind it like

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report


"The secular growth that is in the sector should continue for many reasons," says Craig Maurer, an analyst at Calyon Securities, a division of Credit Agricole. Most important, "the conversion from paper to plastic is going to go on for a very long time when you look at it on a global basis."

The U.S. is far more advanced in using credit cards and debit cards than countries such as China and Russia, Maurer says.

"That's just a sliver of the opportunity that these companies have," he says.