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Indonesia's biggest bank invests in e-commerce platform Bukalapak

'Strategic investment' comes as local startup considers public listing

Bank Rakyat Indonesia -- the country's largest lender by assets -- is investing in Bukalapak, a leading Indonesian e-commerce platform. (Source photos by screenshot from Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Bukalapak websites) 

TOKYO -- Bukalapak, a leading Indonesian e-commerce platform, has received funding from Bank Rakyat Indonesia -- the country's largest lender by assets -- as the unicorn contemplates going public.

BRI Ventures, the venture capital arm of state-owned BRI, announced on Thursday that it had "made a strategic investment" into Bukalapak. The size was undisclosed, but a person with knowledge said it was a "double-digit million [dollar]" deal.

The infusion comes hot on the heels of Bukalapak recently raising $234 million from the likes of Microsoft and GIC, Singapore's state investor, reported by Reuters on Wednesday.

Both of those investors participated in Bukalapak's funding round last year. "Our fundraising efforts started last year led by Microsoft and others have been successful and we are grateful for the support," a Bukalapak spokesperson said without commenting on the BRI announcement.

BRI's investment into Bukalapak aligns with the missions of both. BRI primarily serves the archipelagic nation's micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), with plans to go deeper into "ultra micro" lending.

One of Bukalapak's core businesses is the digitization of small merchants and warung -- the local equivalent to mom and pop shops -- enabling them to sell digital products like phone credits and helping with their procurement of merchandise.

MSMEs contribute 60.3% to Indonesia's gross domestic product. Currently, 13.5 million MSMEs are on Bukalapak's platform.

"Bank BRI will be able to offer its digital banking and lending products to merchants and customers on Bukalapak," says a statement announcing the investment. "The deal also signifies BRI Ventures' commitment to increasing financial and economic inclusion throughout Indonesia."

The fresh funding will also help Bukalapak in its competition against rivals, in particular Shopee, the e-commerce arm of Singapore's Sea. Shopee was a relative latecomer to the market but quickly became the most visited e-commerce platform in Indonesia, partly through heavy promotions.

Current shareholders in Bukalapak include Kreatif Media Karya, an arm of local media conglomerate Emtek, China's Ant Financial, and GIC.

Bukalapak is one of Indonesia's unicorns -- private companies valued at over $1 billion -- looking to list its shares publicly as interest in the region's startups intensifies. On Tuesday, Singapore's Grab, Southeast Asia's biggest unlisted startup, announced a merger with Nasdaq-listed Altimeter Growth, a special purpose acquisition company, operating under the Silicon Valley-based investment company Altimeter Capital, which valued the Singapore-based company at close to $40 billion.

Bloomberg reported in March that Bukalapak was also looking into listing its shares in the U.S. through a SPAC, as well as a listing on Indonesia's stock exchange. However, Bukalapak raising money in the private market from venture capital investors may signal that it could still be a while until the company goes public.

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