Yoma Strategic to buy controlling stake in e-payment firm Wave Money

Yoma Strategic on Wednesday (June 24) said it would acquire a controlling stake in Wave Money, one of Myanmar’s leading mobile payment companies, for US$76.5 million.

Under the deal, Norwegian Telenor Group will sell its existing 51 percent stakes to Yoma MFS Holdings (Wave Holdco), a company established with $25 million capital from Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic. The remaining $51.5 million will be raised from a consortium of investors.

The acquisition is the latest sign that investor interest in Myanmar’s digital banking industry is growing as COVID-19 has prompted more transactions to be made online in the largely cash-based economy. Last month, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s affiliate Ant Financial announced a proposed $73.5 million equity investment in Wave Money.

The mobile payment provider was founded in 2015 as a joint venture between Telenor and Yoma Group, which consists of Yangon-listed First Myanmar Investment, Yoma Strategic and Yoma Bank. When the deal is approved, it will become a subsidiary of Yoma Strategic. Wave Holdco will hold 51pc, Yoma Strategic 44pc and Yoma Bank 5pc, before Ant Financial’s injection of investment.

Ant Financial will hold 33pc after its deal is greenlighted, according to Singapore brokerage house Phillip Capital.

It is an “opportune time” for Telenor Group to divest, said its head of financial services Lars Erik Tellmann.

“Both Yoma Group and Ant Group’s core operation is financial services and technology and they are therefore the strongest owners to take Wave Money forward,” she stated.

“Wave Money continues to see sustained growth in its agent and digital platforms, with Wave Pay gaining strong traction during the COVID-19 pandemic through the acceleration in and adoption of cashless payment solutions,” said Yoma Strategic CEO Melvyn Pun.

The mobile service provider has a network of over 58,000 agents in up to 90pc of Myanmar’s 330 townships.

It says in a June 24 statement that transfer volume in 2019 more than tripled year-on-year to K6.4 trillion (US$4.3 billion), while revenue and transaction numbers also tripled over the same period.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Myanmar’s economy but accelerated digitisation in many industries, including mobile banking services.

Wave Money saw a huge uptick in e-wallet registration and users amid the lockdown measures. There was an over 800pc increase in digital transactions through the e-wallet application WavePay between March and May this year, compared to the same period in 2019.

“Many people in Myanmar started to embrace digital payments in their daily lives for money transfer, mobile bill top-up, donation, and other social-related financial activities,” said Brad Jones, CEO of Wave Money. “This has helped drive Wave Money’s commitment to Myanmar’s financial inclusion, and the journey to creating a cashless society.”

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Source : Myanmar Times

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