Caixin
Mar 14, 2018 06:21 AM
BUSINESS & TECH

Ant Financial Ventures Into Pakistan Through Telenor Deal

Ant Financial made its first investment in Pakistan by buying $184.5 million stake in TMB. Photo:IC
Ant Financial made its first investment in Pakistan by buying $184.5 million stake in TMB. Photo:IC

Ant Financial Services Group, the internet finance affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., has agreed to buy a 45% stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB), Pakistan’s largest mobile financial service provider.

Ant Financial and TMB’s Norwegian parent, Telenor Group, announced the “strategic partnership” on Tuesday. Ant Financial, the operator of China’s most popular online payment service, Alipay, will help TMB develop mobile payment and digital financial services in Pakistan.

Ant Financial will pay $184.5 million for the stake in TMB, according to the statement. Completion of the transaction will be subject to regulatory approvals in both countries.

The partnership will bring together TMB’s knowledge and local market presence with more than 20 million customers, and Ant Financial’s technology for payments and other financial services, to offer mobile-payment and inclusive financial services to individuals as well as small and micro-businesses in Pakistan, the statement said.

“The partnership is well in line with the expressed Telenor strategy of focusing our financial services efforts in emerging markets,” Telenor Group CEO Sigve Brekke said.

TMB operates Easypaisa — Pakistan’s first mobile financial-services platform, launched in 2009 — which is the largest branchless banking service in Pakistan in terms of agent network, active accounts and transaction value, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. TMB also provides microfinance and related financial services to Pakistan’s “unbanked” people, or those who don’t have accounts with traditional banks.

World Bank data show that 100 million Pakistanis are unbanked, accounting for 5% of the world’s unbanked population. TMB said that the rising smartphone penetration in that country is expected to quickly improve the financial service coverage for the unbanked population there.

Under the partnership, Ant Financial will “share its technology know-how with TMB to bring improved user experience on the Easypaisa mobile payment platform, as well as provide inclusive financial services to the unbanked and underbanked population in Pakistan,” Ant Financial CEO Eric Jing said.

Ant Financial is China’s largest internet finance company, with a value of $60 billion as of its most recent funding round, in April 2016. In addition to operating Alipay, the company owns wealth management service Ant Fortune, the credit-scoring platform Zhima Credit, and one of China’s earliest online-only banks, MyBank. Alipay has 520 million active users in China.

The deal marks Ant Financial’s first investment in Pakistan as part of the company’s efforts to strengthen its global presence. Over the past few year, Ant Financial has forged partnerships in Asia, Europe and the U.S. in a bid to connect Alipay with more customers and merchants globally. 

In Asia, Ant Financial has made major investments in local partners, including Delhi-based One97 Communications, which operates India’s leading online payment service, Paytm; and Thailand’s Ascend Money, an arm of the agriculture-to-telecom conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, as well as firms in Indonesia and the Philippines. Alipay services have also been launched in Japan, U.S., Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and other countries.

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com)

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