ZURICH, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Swiss stock exchange operator SIX Group is open to selling a majority stake in its card payments unit with the aim of growing the business, Chairman Romeo Lacher told Reuters.
"We are prepared to sell the majority of the cards business. We are now starting talks with possible interested parties," Lacher said in an interview.
"We hope to be able to say in the second quarter of 2018 with whom we are entering a partnership."
SIX said on Friday it will split out the business, which processes payments and provides debit and credit card terminals to retailers, restaurants and hotels, from its core business in preparation for the stake sale.
Reuters reported in September that SIX had hired JPMorgan to look at options for its payments unit, including a sale worth up to 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.01 billion).
Several private equity groups have bought payments businesses to merge them with peers.
SIX's decision to sell comes amid a wave of mergers and acquisitions in the fragmented payments industry as consumers increasingly switch to card and mobile payments and as regulatory changes promise to open the market to more competition.
Zurich-based SIX is owned by around 130 domestic and foreign banks in Switzerland, including UBS and Credit Suisse .
SIX also said former Euronext Chief Operating Officer Jos Dijsselhof will take over on Jan. 1 as chief executive from Urs Rueegsegger, who had said in May he would leave SIX in 2018.
$1 = 0.9943 Swiss francs Additional reporting and writing by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Maria Sheahan