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Indonesia's Go-Jek invests in Filipino payments startup Coins.ph

Deal comes days after ride-hailing giant is blocked from expanding into country

Go-Jek could still take another shot at entering the Philippine market by changing its new affiliate's ownership structure.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's Go-Jek has announced an investment in the Filipino payments startup Coins.ph, a week after the country's authorities barred the ride-hailing operator's entry into the Philippines.

Go-Jek announced on Friday that its payments platform Go-Pay will partner with Coins.ph, and as part of the deal the Indonesian company has made a "substantial acquisition of shares" in the Filipino company. Go-Jek's announcement did not reveal the value of the investment, or the percentage of shares it will hold in Coins.ph.

The Philippines was one of the four markets the Indonesian unicorn -- a private company with a valuation over $1 billion -- had earmarked to enter in its overseas expansion plan last year. It hit a roadblock, however, in early January when Filipino regulators denied an application from Velox Technology Philippines -- Go-Jek's majority owned local affiliate -- to start a transport network company because it would violate foreign ownership regulations.

Go-Jek could still take another shot at the Philippine market by changing the affiliate's ownership structure, and the deal announced today indicates it is not giving up on the country.

"Today's announcement marks the start of our long-term commitment to the Philippines and a continuation of our mission to use technology to improve everyday lives and create a positive social impact," said Nadiem Makarim, founder and CEO of Go-Jek.

Coins.ph was founded in 2014 and became a leading bitcoin trading platform in the Philippines. It has quickly expanded into a mobile wallet service catering to the country's vast unbanked population, allowing people to use their mobile phones to send money domestically and internationally, as well as take care of bills and pay for purchases, all without interacting with the traditional banking system. The company claims to have 5 million users, as of the end of December.

"Coins.ph and Go-Jek share the same vision that has made each a success in their markets -- empowering their customers by giving them lower-cost and more convenient access to services," said Ron Hose, founder and CEO of the Filipino company. "Together we have a tremendous opportunity, and by leveraging Go-Jek's resources and expertise, we can give Filipinos even more convenience, choice and access to the services they want."

Coins.ph joins a list of local financial companies that Go-Jek has partnered with in the region. In Vietnam, Go-Jek has tied up with VietinBank to offer e-payments, having launched services in the country last September through local affiliate Go-Viet. It also has strategic partnership with Singapore's DBS Group Holdings -- one of Southeast Asia's biggest lenders -- in the city-state, where Go-Jek launched a beta service this year.

Go-Jek, in its challenge to be the regional superapp -- offering everything from transport and financial services to home delivery -- considers payments to be an essential part of the ecosystem. Makarim, in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review last year, said, "Payment is so important, because payment is the glue that connects all of these services together."

The Indonesian unicorn is said to be finalizing a $2 billion funding round backed by existing investors Google, Tencent Holdings and JD.com, among others. According to several reports, the latest round will push its valuation to around $9 billion.

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