Fleet card provider FleetCor Technologies Inc. (NYSE:FLT) is planning a major push into business-to-business electronic payments, and hopes to get a substantial boost from its planned $3.45 billion acquisition of Comdata.

"I can't tell you how excited we are about this virtual payments space," said Ron Clarke, CEO of FleetCor, during an August 12 conference call to discuss the acquisition.

FleetCor will purchase Comdata from Ceridian LLC, a portfolio company of funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL) and Fidelity National Financial. A representative of THL will be appointed to FleetCor's board.

FleetCor will finance the deal with about $2.4 billion of new debt and the issuance of about 7.3 million shares of FleetCor common stock to Ceridian. The transaction's structure will also enable FleetCor to pursue more acquisitions in the future, Clarke said.

The deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, is expected to close by December. FleetCor projected Comdata's growth, which has been about 6 percent per year for the past three years, will expand to 20 percent through the combination of the two companies, Clarke said.

Comdata’s virtual payments business will add a completely new growth leg to FleetCor, Clarke said. Comdata provides fleet, virtual and gift card products to more than 20,000 customers, enabling more than $54 billion in payments annually.

"[Corporate] virtual payments is an incredibly interactive space. This line is the crown jewel of the company," Clarke said. Comdata has also made inroads in health care, another business line where digital payments are poised for growth, he said.

Comdata's fuel payments clients include Lowe's and Quick Fuel. "The Comdata brand is synonymous with trucking and fueling," Clarke said, adding Comdata works with the U.S.'s largest trucking lines.

FleetCor recently bolstered its fleet payment technology through its 2013 purchase of Telenav, which sells technology that tracks the location of truck drivers and mobile workers who buy gas and other items while on the job.

"We can bring our [small to medium business] distribution expertise to help sell more efficiently to smaller businesses, which should add to Comdata's earnings acceleration," Clarke said.

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