Hongkong Bank and Hang Seng Bank yesterday jointly announced the city-wide launch of the group's electronic cash product - Mondex - after a one-year long 'soft launch' in two selected shopping arcades. The official launch will increase the number of shops accepting Mondex to 1,000 from 400 during the soft launch. Andre Selukic, deputy President of MasterCard International, which owns a 51 per cent stake in Mondex Asia - the owner of the Mondex franchise in Asia - said Hong Kong was one of the first places in the world where Mondex was rolled out in such a significant way. He said a number of major banks in Canada, Australia and New Zealand had decided to participate in the smart card project. Last month MasterCard launched a pilot programme in New York. These programmes will promote cross-border usage of Mondex, making use of the smart card's multi-currency capability. The cash storage ceiling of $3,000 per card will still be in place in the city-wide roll out, as in the soft launch last year. Hongkong Bank assistant general manager Edwin Lau Chi-kit said the ceiling would effectively stop the accumulation of cash value in the Mondex cards and plug the loophole for money laundering possibilities with the cards' person-to-person cash transfer function. He confirmed that talks were in progress for a possible sale of part of Hongkong Bank's 49 per cent interest in Mondex Asia to Bank of China but declined to reveal further details.