Visa Europe became independent of Visa Inc. in 2007, after Visa merged three of its four non-stock, separately incorporated companies to become a publicly traded company. The worldwide parent entity Visa International Service Association [Visa], Visa U.S.A. Inc, and Visa Canada Association were merged in the restructuring, which was completed in October 2007.
The IPO of Visa Inc. took place in March 2008, when the company sold 406 million shares at $44 each to raise almost $18 billion, the largest ever US IPO, despite market turmoil amidst the global financial crisis.
As a result of the 2007 restructuring, Visa Europe became a separate company, owned by its members. It holds a license in perpetuity from Visa Inc. to operate in Europe, under which it provides the brand, systems, services, and rules to enable electronic payments between cardholders and retailers and businesses in Europe.
The members of Visa Europe, which include more than 3,000 European financial institutions, have a put option which requires Visa Inc. to purchase their shares at an agreed earnings multiple, no later than 285 days after exercising the option. Visa Inc. has a call option, entitling it to buy Visa Europe in the event of triggering events which indicate a decline in the European company's performance, though Visa describes the likelihood of such an event as "remote."
More than 460 million Visa debit, credit, commercial and prepaid cards have been issued in Europe, where 14 percent of consumer spending at the point of sale is with a Visa card. According to Visa Europe, in the 12 months ending June 2012 Visa cards were used to make €1.8 trillion [$2.02 trillion] in purchases and cash withdrawals.