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Pay-as-you-go Visa voucher firm 3V is preparing to launch its product in the UK and Europe, raising €20m to fund the expansion and creating new jobs.

The vouchers were launched in the UK on Tuesday, backed by a £2m marketing campaign. Other European markets will be added in 2007.

"Following the successful pilot of 3V Voucher here in Ireland over the last 12 months, the capital raised will help us to complete our European roll out in the UK this year and another four markets next year," 3V Transaction Services chief executive Kieron Guilfoyle said.

"We believe 3V Vouchers tap into a very buoyant market and will have a positive impact on the digital economy - this is the largest ever investment made in the pre-paid market outside the USA."

The expansion means extra staff for the firm's Dublin headquarters, with 55 new posts to be added, while a further 12 positions will be created at 3V's London office. The new jobs will be created over the next year and a half.

3V is targeting a €500bn European prepaid market opportunity with its prepaid voucher that allows users to shop online without the need for a credit card. The vouchers can be purchased by anyone over the age of 16 and can be used wherever Visa is accepted.

The vouchers are also designed to help reduce fraud, as they cannot be skimmed, and security details, such as the expiry date, are sent separately to the customers' email or mobile phone.

Founded in Dublin in 2004, 3V has already won 60,000 Irish members since the vouchers were introduced in 2005.

Atlas Venture, who funded the €20m capital together with Benchmark Capital Europe, is firmly behind the venture.

"3V is the first company to come up with a really easy payment method for online shoppers in Europe who don't want to use a debit or credit card on the internet," said Christopher Spray, senior partner at Atlas Venture. "It is elegant in its simplicity and accepted by all merchants. We believe there is a significant un-met need for this."

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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