JCB Co. has signed a deal with the Bank of China to jointly issue credit cards in China, becoming the first Japanese company to enter the Chinese credit card business, company officials said Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the Bank of China, one of China’s four leading commercial banks, will begin issuing credit cards with the JCB name as early as next spring, the officials said.

Japan’s largest credit-card company will allow the Bank of China to issue its cards and register member stores in exchange for royalties, the officials said.

JCB is also negotiating with China’s other top three commercial banks to sign similar agreements, the officials said.

U.S. credit cards, including Visa and MasterCard, are already available in China. But according to industry analysts, only wealthy people are using them.

Analysts, however, expect the credit-card business in China to expand.

JCB aims to issue more than 5 million of its credit cards in China by 2010 through tieups with financial institutions and by increasing the number of member stores, the officials said.

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