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Finance

Philippine fintech Voyager raises $167m for digital banking push

Tencent-backed PayMaya operator says it has applied for online bank license

A shopper uses Voyager's PayMaya mobile wallet to make a purchase at an open-air market in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Voyager Innovations)

MANILA -- Philippine fintech company Voyager Innovations said on Monday it has raised $167 million from existing shareholders, including private equity giant KKR and China's Tencent Holdings, to fund its foray into digital banking.

The fresh capital will give the company behind the PayMaya mobile wallet additional firepower as competition heats up in the country's fintech sector, which has seen a boom in cashless transactions and the entry of branchless banks.

Voyager has applied for a digital bank license with the Philippine central bank, which has already awarded licenses to three digital banks in a bid to spur financial inclusion in the archipelago. Around two-thirds of the Southeast Asian nation's population have no bank accounts and a third of municipalities "have no banking presence," according to the company.

Voyager said it will provide "mobile-first, low-cost [...] neo-banking services."

The company will offer credit, insurance, savings and investment services, capitalizing on PayMaya's technology platform.

Voyager also plans to boost PayMaya, which benefited from a pandemic-fueled rise in mobile payment tractions in 2020, and aims to "more than double" the value of transactions on its platform to over 1.4 trillion pesos ($29 billion) this year. The company ended the previous year with 28 million users, up by 8 million, as more individuals and businesses used the app during the lockdown.

"As we did with payments and remittances, we will enable the large masses of Filipinos to leapfrog into a new stage of financial inclusion through integrated digital financial services," said Voyager President Shailesh Baidwan. "Our goal is to continue making lives better for millions of underserved people and small businesses, with cutting edge solutions that are affordable and relevant."

This marks the third capital-raising round by Voyager from key shareholders, which include IFC, a unit of the World Bank group, and PLDT, the Philippines' leading telecom player.

PLDT is the original proprietor of PayMaya, which has its origins in SMS-based mobile money transfers. The telecom company remains the single largest minority shareholder following the deal. A company spokesperson declined to disclose Voyager's valuation.

The latest round -- which follows $215 million raised in 2018 and $120 million last year -- will give Voyager additional muscle to compete with Ant Group-backed Mynt, which completed a $175 million fundraising round early this year, putting its valuation close to $1 billion.

Other Mynt backers include Philippine mobile leader Globe Telecom, conglomerate Ayala and New York fund Bow Wave, which invests in companies backed by China's Alibaba Group. Ant is the financial arm of Alibaba.

Mynt's app GCash is also beefing up its digital banking services. In an interview with Nikkei Asia in January, Mynt CEO Martha Sazon said the company's strategy was to be a platform for other financial institutions such as banks and insurers, and did not see the need for a digital bank license to execute its game plan. The company may also do another funding round this year, she said.

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