Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ant Financial, operator of Alibaba-linked Alipay, will buy 20 percent of Bangladesh’s bKash

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2018-04-26 19:29:57 BdST

bdnews24

Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate that operates payment service Alipay and other digital finance products, is buying 20 percent share of Bangladeshi mobile financial services provider bKash.

Selim RF Hussain, managing director and CEO of BRAC Bank, of which bKash is a subsidiary, told reporters about the development after the signing of a deal between Ant Financial and bKash at a Dhaka hotel on Thursday.

According to him, bKash will retain 51 percent of its shares and Alibaba will get the stakes from the remaining 49 percent of Money in Motion LLC, International Finance Corporation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

BRAC Bank said in a price sensitive information disclosure that its board of directors approved the share purchase proposal of bKash in a meeting on Thursday.

It said Alipay Singapore E-commerce Private Limited will purchase 20 percent of equity stake of bKash, including preference share. This 20 percent will be calculated based on post-dilution.

Alipay will purchase 10 percent of the bKash share from Money in Motion, IFC and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BRAC Bank said.

The deal entitles Alipay to subscribe for a further 10 percent share of bKash.

BRAC Bank MD Hussain termed ‘milestone’ the investment by Alibaba in Bangladesh.

“They are a big company. We will get technical, mechanical and different other sorts of help from them.

“The most important thing is that Bangladesh has advanced in strategic investment. It’s a great recognition of our economic development and digitisation,” he added.

BRAC Bank Chief Financial Officer Abdul Kader Joaddar told reporters Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation owns preferential shares of bKash while Money in Motion’s stake in bKash is 36.5 percent and IFC’s 12.5 percent.

According to him, Money in Motion is transferring 5.9 percent to Alibaba and IFC 2 percent.

Joaddar also said the entire process would take 15 to 18 months to complete.

The deal signed on Thursday was on strategic partnership. It aims to promote financial inclusion for the unbanked and underbanked communities in Bangladesh, bKash said in a media release.  

bKash CEO Kamal Quadir and Douglas Feagin, Ant Financial Senior Vice President of Global Business, signed the deal.

“This investment opens many new opportunities for bKash and demonstrates the confidence a world-class player is placing in Bangladesh,” said Quadir.

He also said they wanted to bring to Bangladesh the achievements of China in financial inclusion in past 15 to 20 years.

bKash, launched in 2011, operates with over 30 million registered accounts, according to the firm.

‘Historic’

bKash termed ‘historic’ the partnership with Alipay that involves Ant Financial investing into bKash and increasing its technological capabilities, allowing it to provide greater convenience and security in mobile financial services throughout Bangladesh.  

Ministers, top officials and business leaders attended the signing ceremony.

Post, Telecommunication and IT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said he was ‘overjoyed’ when Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested in bKash in 2014.

“And Alipay is investing in Bangladesh now because we have achieved that much capability,” he said.    

The minister also praised bKash, saying it would be difficult for any other entity to dethrone it as it is now a household name.  

State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak spoke about how Alipay helped Paytm compete with PayPal in India.

“Now they are at a leading stage in the world. They are helping different types of services to be taken to marginal levels of different countries,” he said.

BRAC founder Fazle Hasan Abed said they launched bKash to swiftly take the financial services to all, especially the poor.

Bangladesh, according to him, was much ahead of many other countries in terms of financial inclusion.

He hoped mobile financial services will expand from transactions to credit and insurance.

bKash CEO Quadir said in the welcome speech: “Along with its investment, Alipay brings the best payment technologies built by thousands of engineers and the knowledge of applying those technologies to economies like China which went through a massive transformation in recent years.

“Such track record makes Ant Financial a fitting partner for bKash since Bangladesh too has a large population of 160 million and an economy that is advancing rapidly. This investment opens many new opportunities for bKash and demonstrates the confidence a world-class player is placing in Bangladesh,” he said. 

Eric Jing, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ant Financial, said, “bKash can tap on the experience Alipay has built over the last decade serving 800 million users together with our strategic partners worldwide.”

“As part of Ant Financial’s global strategy, we are keen to share our technology know-how with partners like bKash, who has successfully brought financial services to the largely unbanked population in Bangladesh,” he added.

bKash and Ant Financial were both named in Fortune Change The World 2017 list, a recognition given to companies that have had a positive social impact through activities that are part of their core business strategy.

BRAC Bank MD Hussain said bKash will benefit immensely from this landmark partnership with Ant Financial. “It will help bKash significantly step up its activities in changing and positively impacting the lives of millions.”

Finance Secretary Muslim Chowdhury, and bKash Chairman Shameran Abed, among others, also spoke at the event.