Gemplus joins smart-card venture in Australia

French smart-card manufacturer Gemplus SA has teamed up with Australian company Leigh-Mardon in hopes of bringing smart card technology to the masses down under.

The $A32.5 million venture, called L-M Gemplus, will be a 50-50 partnership between Gemplus and Australia's largest plastic and smart card manufacturer, Gemplus said in a statement. The company will be based in Melbourne, and will provide cards in Australia and New Zealand.

L-M Gemplus plans to focus its development efforts on smart cards for mobile telecommunications, multimedia and Internet applications and payment systems, Gemplus said.

The two companies estimate that the smart card market in Australia and New Zealand is currently worth around $A50 million per year, and expect it to reach $A200 million by 2002. Together, Gemplus and Leigh-Mardon hope to capture more than half of this overall market, they said.

Gemplus smart cards are already in use in the Melbourne area, Gemplus said. The city has 42 multimedia kiosks offering Internet access and other interactive services that operate in conjunction with Gemplus smart cards.

The joint venture is expected to be completed next month, with L-M Gemplus beginning to produce smart cards in Australia at the end of the first quarter of 1999, the companies said.

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