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Visa raises US$17.9bn amid credit crunch

NEW YORK, March 18, 2008 (AFP) - Credit card giant Visa raised more than 17 billion dollars Tuesday in the largest share offering in US history, despite a growing financial crisis in the country. Visa Inc. sold 406,000,000 shares priced at 44 dollars each, raising nearly 17.9 billion dollars before it begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday under the ticker symbol "V," the San Francisco-based company said.

"Visa expects net proceeds from the offering, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses, to be approximately 17.3 billion dollars," the company said in a statement.

The price was higher than the expected 38 to 42 dollars a share, a sign of the strong demand for Visa's stock.

Visa's IPO easily broke the US record of 10.6 billion dollars set by AT&T Wireless in 2000.

But it is well short of the world's largest IPO, a 21.9-billion-dollar offering by Chinese bank ICBC, The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, on Shanghai and Hong Kong markets in October 2006.

Underwriters of Visa's IPO have a 30-day option to purchase up to 40,600,000 additional shares, which would bring Visa an additional 1.7 billion dolla

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