Myanmar’s Wave Money lands $75.3m from Ant Financial

via FinTech Futures

Wave Money, a Myanmar-based digital money transfer service, has landed a $75.3 million investment from Chinese Big Tech Ant Financial.

The investment makes Ant Financial a substantial minority stakeholder, alongside existing shareholders Telenor, a Norwegian majority state-owned telco, and Yoma Group, a Myanmar-based conglomerate.

As of November 2019, the Singapore-based units of Telenor owned a 51% stake in Wave Money, Yoma Strategic held a 34% stake, and Yoma Bank owned 5%, while the remaining 10% stake was owned by First Myanmar Investment Public Company.

Ant Financial says its new investment is part of a strategic partnership to “promote financial inclusion for the unbanked and underbanked communities” in Myanmar. It will allow Wave Money to leverage the tech behind Ant Financial’s digital wallet Alipay, which currently serves 1.2 billion users globally.

The new stake in Wave Money, a service which has tapped more than 21 million people to date, will come by way of a new share issuance which is still subject to regulatory approval.

Wave Money says it has a network of 57,000 ‘Wave Shops’ across Myanmar, covering roughly 89% of the country. In September 2018, the digital money service became profitable, and in 2019 it experienced a total transaction volume of $4.3 billion.

“Myanmar’s population is still underserved by formal banking institutions with only a quarter of people having a bank account,” says Yoma Strategic’s CEO Melvyn Pun.

“The COVID-19 situation is accelerating the trend towards a cashless society and drives the growth of ecommerce, and we expect this strategic partnership to massively boost Wave Money’s capabilities to support these trends.”

The focus on the unbanked and underbanked follows plans announced by Myanmar’s government to increase financial inclusion in the country from its current 48% to 60% by 2023.