Mastercard is plotting a bid for bank-owned payments handler Vocalink, it has been reported.
Sky News said the credit card issuer has approached the board of Vocalink over a deal that could be worth up to £1bn.
The approach comes shortly after the new payments industry regulator said Vocalink’s current ownership structure is "hampering competition and the speed of innovation in the market".
Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, HSBC and Santander are among 18 banks which collectively own Vocalink, the system underpinning 90 per cent of BACS salary payments as well as other payments such as direct debits worth a combined £6 trillion each year.
Last week the Payments System Regulator told them they should sell their stakes to open up the market to competition and innovation.
According to Sky News, Mastercard has hired Citi to advise on the approach. Its interest in acquiring Vocalink was understood to have been expressed prior to the Payment Systems Regulator’s remarks.
In November it was reported that Vocalink was in talks over a £2bn merger with Italian counterpart Sia.