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Capital One to Acquire Discover Financial Services In $35 Billion Deal

Capital One Financial said it will buy Discover Financial Services for $35 billion, in a deal that would bring together two of the nation’s credit card companies as well as potentially shake up the payments industry, which is largely dominated by Visa and Mastercard.

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AP
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In a move set to reshape the landscape of the payments industry, Capital One Financial has announced its plans to acquire Discover Financial Services for a staggering $35 billion. This landmark deal brings together two of the nation’s leading credit card companies, potentially challenging the dominance of industry giants Visa and Mastercard.

Under the terms of the agreement, Discover Financial shareholders will receive Capital One shares valued at nearly $140 each, representing a significant premium compared to Discover's recent stock price of $110.49.

The merger brings together two major players in the credit card market, both known for catering to customers seeking cash back rewards and modest travel benefits. Matt Schulz, chief credit card analyst at LendingTree, commented on the deal, noting that it will likely contribute to a shrinking of the marketplace dominated by larger players.

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Capital One's chairman and CEO, Richard Fairbank, expressed enthusiasm about the acquisition, highlighting the opportunity to create a robust payments network capable of competing with industry leaders. The move not only consolidates the credit card market but also gives Discover's payment network a substantial boost, potentially positioning it as a major competitor once again.

With the acquisition, Capital One aims to capitalize on Americans' increasing reliance on credit cards, as evidenced by the $1.13 trillion in credit card debt held by consumers in the fourth quarter of 2023. Despite rising interest rates and concerns about defaults, Capital One's business model, which targets customers willing to carry balances, remains resilient.

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However, both Capital One and Discover have faced challenges, including rising provisions for loan losses amidst economic uncertainty. Despite the profitability concerns, the acquisition presents an opportunity for Capital One to access Discover's payment processing network, which generates revenue through transaction fees.

The deal comes amid regulatory scrutiny faced by Discover, including issues related to misclassifying certain card accounts and compliance management. Analysts speculate that these regulatory challenges may have influenced Discover's decision to pursue strategic alternatives, leading to the acquisition by Capital One.

While the deal is expected to face regulatory scrutiny, consumer groups are already raising concerns about potential antitrust implications and the impact on consumers. Jesse Van Tol, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, emphasized the need for the Biden Administration to ensure that the acquisition benefits both consumers and shareholders.

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