Yoma Strategic's mobile payments joint venture in Myanmar ties up with Alipay operator

Yoma Strategic's chief executive Melvyn Pun said Myanmar's population is still massively underserved by formal banking institutions. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Alipay operator Ant Financial Services Group will invest US$73.5 million (S$104.9 million) in Digital Money Myanmar (Wave Money) - a mobile payments joint venture (JV) between Telenor Group and the Yoma group - as part of a strategic partnership to promote financial inclusion in Myanmar.

This will be for unbanked and underbanked communities in the country, mainboard-listed Yoma Strategic announced on Monday (May 18) in a regulatory filing.

The partnership will allow Wave Money to leverage Ant Group's experience in building mobile payment platforms to enhance its digital competence, capabilities, user experience and service offerings.

Ant Group's investment will come by way of a new share issuance subject to certain conditions, including regulatory approval. The move will allow Ant Group to become a substantial minority stakeholder, alongside existing shareholders.

As at Nov 8, 2019, Telenor holds 51 per cent interest, Yoma Strategic holds 34 per cent interest, First Myanmar Investment Public Company holds 10 per cent interest, and Yoma Bank holds 5 per cent interest in Wave Money.

Yoma Strategic will acquire the 10 per cent held by First Myanmar Investment Public Company, raising its stake to 44 per cent. The stake acquisition will be completed before Ant Group's investment in Wave Money.

Melvyn Pun, Yoma Strategic's chief executive, said Myanmar's population is still massively underserved by formal banking institutions, with only a quarter of people having a bank account.

He added: "The Covid-19 situation is accelerating the trend towards a cashless society and drives the growth of e-commerce, and we expect this strategic partnership to massively boost Wave Money's capabilities to support these trends."

Eric Jing, Ant Group's executive chairman, said: "The partnership will enable Wave Pay to tap the experience of Alipay to promote financial inclusion and better serve the unbanked and underbanked individuals and SMEs in Myanmar."

Yoma Strategic shares closed at 20.5 cents on Friday, up 0.8 cent or 4.1 per cent.

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