Alibaba unit Ant Financial to buy 20% stake in Bangladesh payments firm bKash

Ant Financial
A logo of Ant Financial is displayed at an event of the company in Hong Kong, China November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Ant Financial, a unit of Alibaba’s payment arm Alipay, is buying 20 per cent stake in Bangladeshi mobile financial services provider bKash, according to reports by local media.

Established in 2010 by founding shareholders, BRAC Bank Limited and Money in Motion LLC, bKash offers payment services in Bangladesh, where it runs a network of more than 180,000 agents throughout urban and rural areas with over 30 million registered accounts.

News of the investment was disclosed to reporters by Selim RF Hussain, managing director and CEO of bKash parent company BRAC Bank, which has approved of the proposal.

Hussain said, bKash will retain 51 per cent of its shares and Alibaba will acquire from Money in Motion LLC, International Finance Corporation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who collectively own the balance stake.

Alipay will reportedly purchase 10 per cent of the bKash share from Money in Motion, IFC and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while the deal also entitles the Chinese firm to subscribe for a further 10 per cent in the payments firm.

Meanwhile, both Ant Financial and bKash have also announced in official releases that they have teamed up to form a strategic partnership to promote financial inclusion for the unbanked and underbanked communities in Bangladesh.

The partnership involves Ant Financial investing into bKash and increasing its technological capabilities, allowing it to provide greater convenience and security in mobile financial services throughout Bangladesh.

“Along with its investment, Alipay brings the best payment technologies built by thousands of engineers and the knowledge of applying those technologies to economies like China which went through a massive transformation in recent years. Such track record makes Ant Financial a fitting partner for bKash since Bangladesh too has a large population of 160 million and an economy that is advancing rapidly,” said bKash CEO Kamal Quadir in the release.

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