Axiata Digital, the digital services arm of Axiata Group Berhad (“Axiata” or “the Group”) on Thursday announced a strategic investment of US$70 million (RM299.355 million) by Great Eastern to boost its fast-growing digital financial services (“DFS”) business across the region.
This deal marks a significant milestone for the Axiata group. With the investment, Great Eastern takes a 21.875% stake in the holding company for Axiata Digital’s DFS business, with Axiata Digital Services Sdn Bhd holding the balance. The company, called Boost Holdings Sdn Bhd, will comprise of:
- Boost, the largest homegrown e-wallet and lifestyle app with over 5 million users and 170,000 merchant touchpoints
- Boost Indonesia, with 544,000 merchant touchpoints
- Aspirasi, a micro-financing and micro-insurance digital financing provider with over US$20 million in loans disbursed to-date
- Trust Axiata Digital Limited, a joint venture with a local bank in Bangladesh
- Launchpad for bringing digital financial services to other Axiata markets
A ceremony was held via a livestream in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to announce the agreement between Great Eastern and Axiata Digital. The transaction is expected to be completed in the next few months, subject to relevant regulatory approvals.
Proceeds from the investment will fund expansion plans for Axiata Digital’s DFS business over the next year in Malaysia and the region, which includes securing Boost’s next level push to develop its ecosystem of merchants and customers, enhancing Aspirasi’s credit scoring technology, and potentially housing the Digital Bank.
Earlier this year, Axiata Digital expressed interest in the digital banking licenses to be offered by Bank Negara Malaysia and has begun work to prepare for an application. It sees massive potential in this area to serve diverse segments, especially the large unbanked and underserved population, as using technology would drive down acquisition, distribution and under-writing costs for a slew of financial products.
These developments are timely in view of the demand and interest for digitisation which are expected to grow exponentially following the COVID-19 crisis. Customers and merchants expect better protection measures, along with affordable and more flexible financing solutions to respond with operational resilience in weathering tough economic conditions.
This marks the third strategic investment secured by Axiata Digital from well-established financial industry players. In 2018, Sumitomo placed an investment of US$20 million (RM 85.53 million) into its digital advertising business, ADA, and in 2019, Mitsui channeled an investment of up to US$50 million (RM213.825 million) into the company.
Axiata’s President and Group Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim said, “As a Group committed to creating sustainable business value across all our markets, Axiata has been consistent in our pursuit to aggressively grow our digital ventures. I am particularly encouraged that this deal with Great Eastern demonstrates the hard and fast moves we made in the early days to invest in Digital Businesses have put us in a sweet spot today to ride the digital wave sweeping much of the nation and region as economies scale towards recovery.”
“Great Eastern is a close insurance partner of Aspirasi with a long-term commercial agreement signed in 2019. Today, we are very pleased to take the relationship to a new level in the next normal, with Great Eastern as our investor mutually aligned in our goal to rapidly expand Digital Financial Services across the region,” he said.
“The cash injection is also a powerful testament in boosting investor confidence through what has been described as the largest foreign investment in Malaysian fintech. As companies seek to emerge from the current economic fallout, local businesses stand to gain from Great Eastern’s substantial investment into Axiata as we jointly create opportunities within the ecosystem, contributing towards the reignition of Malaysia’s economic recovery,” he concluded.
“Over the past two years, we have been sharpening our focus on building and enhancing our digital financing services brand using digital technologies and our Telco assets to serve the underserved. Firstly, with Boost, which has grown to become a leading lifestyle cashless payment app which, in today’s COVID-19 world, is the safer way to transact, along with Aspirasi, our micro-financing and micro-insurance brand that supports MSMEs with simplified access to financing and insurance. With the investment from an esteemed partner like Great Eastern, we hope to further leverage emerging technologies to develop distinct financial and insurance innovations for consumers at the bottom of the pyramid, as we continue on our journey to narrow the financial inclusion and protection gap in the country,” said Mohd Khairil Abdullah, CEO, Axiata Digital.
Khor Hock Seng, Group Chief Executive Officer, Great Eastern said: “This strategic investment will enable Great Eastern to participate in Axiata’s growing fintech expansion plans in the region. Axiata’s focus on providing financial services for the underserved, unbanked and under insured customer segment also resonates well with our business strategy. By leveraging on Axiata’s network and digital capabilities, and partnering with them, we want to grow our reach into new customer segments to provide for their financial needs and ultimately improve their lives. We are excited to have the opportunity to strengthen our collaboration to deliver more value to its growing customer base by providing our protection and insurance solutions for better financial security and peace of mind.”