SHANGHAI (Kyodo) JCB Co. and the Bank of China said Wednesday they will jointly launch a credit card in China in April, marking the first entry by a Japanese company into China’s credit-card business.

Under the deal, Bank of China, one of China’s four leading commercial banks, will begin issuing credit cards under the brand of Japan’s largest credit-card company, the two said in a news conference in Shanghai.

JCB will offer Bank of China rights to issue JCB-brand cards and rights to extend contracts to shops and restaurants as members. It will receive royalties from the bank.

Analysts say that although credit-card holders in China are relatively few and primarily wealthy, accounting for only about 1 percent of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, business there has been expanding rapidly. U.S.-brand credit cards, including Visa and MasterCard, are already issued in China.

Targeting the affluent, JCB is in talks with China’s other leading commercial banks to conclude similar agreements, with a goal of having more than 5 million holders of its cards in the country by 2010.

Credit-card competition is expected to intensify in China when the county lifts a ban on retail banking business in yuan by foreign banks by the end of next year, five years after China’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

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