Sea acquires Indonesian bank to gain fintech foothold

SINGAPORE • Singapore's Sea, the tech start-up that has become South-east Asia's most valuable company, has acquired Indonesia's Bank Kesejahteraan Ekonomi, according to sources.

Sea has gained full control of the Jakarta-based lender, better known as Bank BKE, after buying stakes from existing shareholders Danadipa Artha Indonesia and Koin Investama Nusantara through its subsidiary Turbo Cash Hong Kong, said the sources, who asked not to be named as the matter is private.

The move accelerates the company's ambition to establish itself as a leader in financial technology and services across the region, much as it has done with mobile gaming and online shopping.

Sea raised almost US$3 billion (S$3.98 billion) in a stock offering last month, saying it intends to spend the proceeds on business expansion.

Representatives of Sea and Bank BKE declined to comment.

Bank BKE began operations in 1992 with the primary goal of supporting the welfare of civil servants, according to its website.

South-east Asia's biggest Internet companies are all vying for a share of a growing digital banking arena.

Sea secured a licence to open a digital bank in Singapore last month, joining an increasingly competitive field that also features a joint venture between Grab Holdings and Singtel.

Gojek last month paid roughly US$160 million to increase its stake in Bank Jago to 22.16 per cent, making its biggest investment in financial services to date.

Gojek, which is backed by Facebook and PayPal Holdings, aims to let users open bank accounts with Jago and then manage their finances through its app.

Its e-wallet GoPay, which extends digital financial services to merchants and drivers, competes with Sea's e-wallet ShopeePay and Ovo, backed by Grab and Tokopedia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2021, with the headline 'Sea acquires Indonesian bank to gain fintech foothold'. Subscribe