China's Ant Financial has set its sights on Pakistan, agreeing to buy a 45% stake in a local mobile financial services outfit owned by Norwegian telco Telenor.
Ant will pay US$184.5 million for its share in Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB), which launched Pakistan's first mobile financial services platform, called Easypaisa, in 2009 and now claims more than 20 million customers.
The partners say that combining TMB's knowledge and local market presence with Ant's Alipay technology will enable them to bring mobile payments and other financial services to people and small business throughout Pakistan, where more than 100 million are unbanked.
"Today, we are very happy to share our technology knowhow with Telenor Microfinance Bank to bring improved user experience on the Easypaisa mobile payment platform, as well as provide inclusive financial services in a transparent, safe, low cost and efficient way to the unbanked and underbanked population in Pakistan," says Eric Jing, CEO, Ant Financial.
Ant has been aggressively pursuing international expansion, over the last 12 months in an effort to reach its stated aim of securing two billion users within 10 years. The firm has struck deals with local players in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea, although it failed in a bid to buy America's MoneyGram.
On the homefront, consumer lending has soared in the last year, doubling to reach $95 billion, even as the regulatory environment for securitising loans tightens.