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French retailer Carrefour launches new online banking service

FILE PHOTO: The logo of France-based food retailer Carrefour is seen on the roof of Tbilisi Mall in Tbilisi, Georgia, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili/File Photo

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS (Reuters) - French retailer Carrefour (CARR.PA) on Tuesday joined the crowded French online banking field with the launch of C-zam, a current account for anyone over 18 that can be opened on presentation of two identity cards and activated online in 10 minutes.

The move comes as French telecoms operator Orange (ORAN.PA) and its partner Groupama also aim to launch Orange bank in mid-May in France, where the online banking market is dominated by ING Direct (ING.AS), Societe Generale's (SOGN.PA) Boursorama and Credit Mutuel Arkea's Fortuneo.

It is also part of Carrefour chief executive Georges Plassat's ambition to step up the company's online expansion, as he looks to cement a turnaround that was initially largely focused on revamping the group's physical store network.

Plassat said this month that Carrefour targeted a group business volume of 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion) from E-commerce by 2020 against 1.2 billion in 2016.

"This service is fully in line with our digital transformation and Carrefour's will to innovate," Carrefour France executive director Noel Prioux told a news conference.

Under the offer, a client going to a Carrefour store can buy for 5 euros from April 18 onwards a box coupling a current account managed online to a Mastercard payment card.

The account allows no overdraft and is accessible to all regardless of income level or resources. It will cost its user one euro per month.

"We are launching the first current account distributed in France by a retailer, accessible to all with no income limitations," said Carrefour Banque CEO Julien Jaillon.

Carrefour Banque, created in 1981 and 40 percent controlled by BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA), already offers consumer credit, savings, and insurance services to its 2.5 million clients.

The new service, which is targeting tech-savvy people in their 20s and 30s as well as families, will initially be available in more than 3,000 Carrefour stores in France.

Similar to the 'Nickel' account launched in late 2014 former SocGen communication official by Hughes Le Bret, which offers consumers accounts that can be opened at tobacco stores with only an ID card and a telephone number, C-zam is also available to people otherwise unable to get mainstream accounts.

Jaillon did not provide financial targets for C-zam but said he had "big ambitions in terms of volume" for a service which he said was "the most competitive" price-wise in France.

Carrefour Banque is following in the tracks of the big traditional French banks, which have boosted their online business to counter both low-cost Internet competitors and a drop in the numbers of clients visiting branches, both of which are denting their profits and forcing them to close outlets.

($1 = 0.9264 euros)

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)