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Thai bank invests THB1.65 billion into Singapore ride-hailing firm

According to a recent report, a major Thailand bank has invested THB1.65 billion (US$50 million) into Singapore’s leading ride-hailing firm, forming a partnership that will help launch the firm’s electronic wallet in its sixth Southeast Asian market in 2019.

Thailand’s fourth-largest bank also said the tie-up will allow it to use the ride-hailing firm’s data on merchants and drivers to formulate loan products and minimise non-performing loans.

The bank’s president noted in a statement that the bank’s co-branded mobile wallet and strategic investment in the ride-hailing firm enable them to bring the firm’s scale to the bank’s merchant and consumer network in Thailand.

The e-wallet is one aspect of the ride-hailing firm’s strategy to transform into a technology firm from being purely a ride-hailing business – a business not yet fully regulated in Thailand.

The service is accessible via the firm’s smartphone application, and in Thailand will be branded “GrabPay by KBank”.

The bank’s president also said the ride-hailing firm’s app will be integrated with the bank’s app, and that the bank will eventually provide loans via apps.

This will, thereby, advance the firm’s ambition to build an Everyday Super App to serve the daily needs of the bank’s Thai consumers, noted the ride-hailing app’s Thailand chief in the statement.

The e-payment option in partnership with the bank will compete with two other e-payment options and will be offered in conjunction with local telecommunications firm Advanced Info Service (AIS) and mass transit firm BTS Group Holdings.

The Thai bank is the latest financial institution to form a partnership with the Singaporean ride-hailing firm as the tech firm expands in the sector, with other partners including Malayan Banking and a major credit card company.

The investment, while relatively small, is the first from Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

It is part of a funding round in which the Singaporean ride-hailing firm has so far raised about THB75 billion (US$2.7 billion) from various massive investors, including numerous tech giants as well as several financial institutions and banks.

More recently, a major car manufacturer had announced a THB8.25 billion (US$250 million) investment in the ride-hailing firm, its largest-ever investment in an auto-tech firm.

The Singaporean ride-hailing firm had said it is on track to attract over THB99 billion (US$3 billion) by the end of this year. The company has raised a total of THB198 billion (US$6 billion) until now.

According to another report on the deal, it was noted that the broad goal is to operate a payment network across Southeast Asia and among its cumulative population of over 620 million people.

The Singaporean ride-hailing firm believes that payments can be a glue that ties together its platform and compels customers to use multiple services beyond ride-hailing; for example, food delivery, on-demand services and a range of third-party-backed offerings that it is adding to its platform. There are also plans to go beyond payments and offer financial services such as loans.

The report also noted that the ride-hailing firm is not alone in targeting financial services.

A Japanese messaging firm will be offering products in Thailand, co-branded with the operator of Bangkok’s Sky Train service. And, a major e-commerce giant’s financial unit is present across most of the Southeast Asia region through local ventures.

Then there is also a plethora of financial services start-ups looking to address the region’s banking gap using the growth of internet access.

The Singaporean ride-hailing firm now claims 125 million downloads across eight countries in Southeast Asia.

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