HSBC Finance Corp.'s acquisition of once-harrowed credit card issuer The Metris Companies, makes Metris the latest in a long line of consolidation moves in the credit card sector. The consolidation streak has become so hot in recent months that further consolidation has become more of a question of when,' rather than if.' "This was kind of anticipated," said an ABS strategist.

The deal is seen as a positive for Metris, whose corporate debt ratings have been in the low end of the non-investment-grade pool, at B3/B-/B-' by Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings, respectively. Within hours of the acquisition announcement, all three major rating agencies had placed Metris' corporate debt on watch for a possible upgrade. HSBC is rated Aa3/A/AA-.'

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