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Business deals

Thailand's biggest bank invests in ride-hailing unicorn Go-Jek

Siam Commercial Bank eyes fintech connection with fast-growing local app

Siam Commercial Bank will link its online banking services with Thai ride-hailing app GET. (Photo courtesy of Siam Commercial Bank)

BANGKOK -- Siam Commercial Bank, Thailand's largest lender by assets, said on July 11 it has taken a stake in leading Indonesian ride-hailing company Go-Jek and will work with the startup in mobile payments.

Both SCB and Go-Jek declined to provide details on the size of the investment, part of Go-Jek's series F funding round, which is said to be worth $3 billion.

SCB also announced a partnership with Go-Jek's Thai ride-hailing affiliate GET. The tie-up will let the bank provide financial services to drivers and merchants on GET.

SCB's move comes a few months after Kasikornbank, another leading Thai lender, invested $50 million in Singapore-based Grab, Go-Jek's biggest Southeast Asian rival.

GET drivers will be able to open accounts with SCB, move cash in and out of the GET app using the bank's Easy Pay system and apply for small-business loans through the app.

The partnership "will help expand SCB's customer base via the GET application and also help create a digital ecosystem for GET users to get what they want more easily through SCB's mobile banking experience," said Apiphan Charoenanusorn, a senior executive vice president at the bank.

The number of GET users in Thailand has risen sharply from 200,000 in February 2019 to more than 1 million now based on downloads.

Senior Executive Vice President of Siam Commercial Bank Apiphan Charoenanusorn speaks to reporters during a press conference in Bangkok on July 11.  (Photo by Rie Ishii)

Local banks in Thailand are increasingly teaming up with technology companies, offering financial services ranging from digital payments to consumer loans.

Go-Jek, which is accelerating its expansion in Southeast Asia, is working with financial institutions in various markets. In November 2018, it announced a partnership with Singapore's leading bank group, DBS Group Holdings.

"Payment is so important, because payment is the glue that connects all of these services together," Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview last year.

In the first phase of its series F funding round January, Go-Jek raised more than $1 billion from some of the world's biggest internet companies, including Google as well as China's JD.com and Tencent Holdings.

Go-Jek also received capital from Japan's Mitsubishi Motors, trading house Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance in the second phase of series F.

Meanwhile, Grab is on track to raise another $1 billion from investors by the end of this year. Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son's SoftBank Group will likely lead the new fundraising round, pouring in $500 million, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources.

These dueling rounds of fundraising are an indication that Go-Jek's battle with Grab is increasingly taking on the characteristics of a proxy war between rival companies. Competing businesses have often invested in either of the ride-hailers as they try to extend their presence in Southeast Asia.

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