It may come as little surprise to most observers that, having tried to offload its Myanmar mobile communications business, Telenor now aims to sell its 51 percent stake in Wave Money, one of Myanmar’s biggest mobile payment services.
In fact it looks like a sale of the stake to a consortium led by Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings (YSH), the main Telenor partner in Wave, is due to be finalised soon.
Nikkei Asia reports that, at $53 million in cash values, the sale of the stake in Wave Money is the biggest fintech deal in Myanmar since the military takeover of that country. However, it’s not clear how YSH is to make the most of its acquisition given last February’s military takeover, which is said to have dealt a major blow to consumer and investor confidence.
Wave Money facilitates bill payments, local remittances, and over-the-counter transaction services through its Wave Pay service, handling somewhere in the region of one million to 1.2 million transactions per month. But, initially at least, the military takeover apparently halved its estimated two million-plus active app users.
Ironically the problems recently faced by the formal banking sector now seem to have boosted the number of users of mobile payments. However, there are still question marks over whether military curbs on the banking sector, including alleged demands to freeze the bank accounts of those said to be opposed to the military regime, may be extended to digital payments. Military surveillance of mobile financial transactions is another possibility worrying activists and legal campaigners.
Telenor is still looking for a buyer for its Myanmar mobile communications business after it was reported that the military regime wanted local companies to be involved rather than allowing a planned sale to Lebanon’s M1 Group.