Man-United-branded Barclaycard charges into Asia

Barclays Capital, the investment banking associate of English Premier League sponsors, Barclaycard, plans to expand its presence in Asia so its parent company, Barclays Plc, can earn 50% of revenue from outside its home turf of the United Kingdom within the next three years. The division, which opened in Asia in 2001, has offices in Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, China and Japan, and in its regional hub, Singapore and wants to make acquisitions in every market in which it operates.

"We are clearly on our path to achieve the target," Robert Morrice, chairman and chief executive officer (Asia Pacific) for Barclays Capital told Umesh Pandey and Chiratas Nivatpumin of the Bangkok Post. He said he was bullish on the Thai market, with the local bond market in particular poised for strong growth.

Barclaycard International, the world’s sixth largest general purpose credit card issuer, is also dipping its toes into Asia. In 2005 it relocated one of its most experienced business development executives, Ron Boddy, to Singapore to explore opportunities for growth in the region. “We’ve got an ambition to have an international business as meaningful as the UK one by 2013. It’s difficult to see how you would do that without a substantial Asian business,” the Barclaycard International commercial director for Asia Pacific told The Asian Banker.

Surprisingly, its first product in Asia uses a one-football-club brand rather than the image of the powerful English Premier League for which it is known world-wide as the naming sponsor.

Barclaycard has the right to market Manchester United branded credit cards anywhere outside of the UK and Singapore in a five year deal signed in 2003. Fans are able to apply for a range of credit cards offering exclusive cardholder benefits, including merchandise signed by their favourite players, welcome gifts and the opportunity to win Manchester United prizes. The card reward programme – Red Rewards - includes opportunities to win tickets to attend matches at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground and the cards also offer prize draws.

Barclaycard launched its first co-branded Manchester United card in South Korea with Shinhan Card Co Ltd in January 2006. “We are delighted to be able to introduce the MU Card to football fans in South Korea especially as Park Ji Sung is playing an active part in Manchester United. Together with our partners Barclaycard and Manchester United, we are certain that fans throughout the country will welcome this new card and benefits,” Hong Sung Kyun, CEO of Shinhan Card Co Ltd said.

This agreement follows on from similar Asian cooperative deals in Thailand (launched with Payment Solution Company Ltd, an affiliated company established in cooporation between Shin Corporation Pcl and DBS Bank, in November 2005), Japan (with Orico, the country's second-largest bank, in March 2005), Hong Kong (with Dah Sing Bank in January 2005) and Malaysia (with Public Bank Bhd in November 2004).

In the United Kingdom, the right to market Mancehster United branded credit cards is held by the American bank, MBNA Corporation, reputedly the world’s largest independent credit card lender. The company also provides consumer loan and insurance products. MBNA is global leader in "affinity credit card" marketing with endorsements from more than 5,100 membership organisations, corporations, sports teams, and financial institutions worldwide. There are more than 850 such organisations in Europe including most English Premiership and Championship football clubs.

See also: World Cup credit card by Standard Chartered Malaysia (21 Jan)