Ant Financial Invests in Myanmar's Wave Money

This file photo shows Myanmar information technology volunteers assisting a mobile phone user in Yangon. (AFP Photo)

Ant Financial, the Chinese operator of Alipay, announced its plans to invest US$73.5 million for a minority stake in Digital Money Myanmar Limited, a fintech company based in Myanmar locally known as Wave Money, the companies announced in a press release.

Wave Money, a mobile financial services provider, allows users to send and receive money through a network of more than 57,000 agents or “Wave Shops” distributed across urban and rural areas covering approximately 89 percent of the country. 

Wave Money, a joint venture between Norway’s Telenor and the local Yoma Group through its Yoma Strategic and Yoma Bank group companies, aims to to promote financial inclusion for the underbanked communities in Myanmar in order to reach the government stated goal of increasing financial inclusion in the country from its current 48 percent to 60 percent by 2022.

As part of the partnership, Wave Money will leverage Ant Group’s experience in mobile payment platforms to improve its capabilities, give users a smoother experience and to offer services that better address the needs of users in Myanmar.

In a country where only about 25 percent of the population has access to a bank account, “Myanmar is ready for mass adoption of digital payments with a connected population and high smartphone penetration. This partnership will be transformative for Wave Money and Myanmar,” said Brad Jones, Wave Money’s CEO in a statement released on Monday (18 May). 

Melvin Pun, Yoma Strategic’s CEO, added that the coronavirus pandemic 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.” 

In 2019, Wave Money’s transfer volume more than tripled year-on-year reaching MMK6.4 trillion (US$4.3 billion). During the same period, revenue and transaction numbers also tripled. Wave Money became EBITDA positive in September 2018, just two years after its launch and continued to maintain its profitability.

Francesco Alberti is a freelance journalist who worked in Japan and Singapore with the Mainichi Daily News and in media syndication for Bloomberg. After more than 25 years in Asia, he is now based in Rome, Italy.