Thailand-based digital payment firm Ascend Money has become Southeast Asia’s latest unicorn with a new $150 million funding round from US-based investment firm Bow Wave Capital Management and existing investors CP Group and Ant Group.
The investment values Ascend Money at $1.5 billion, according to a statement, making the company Thailand’s first fintech unicorn.
Ascend Money said it will use the fresh capital to grow its e-wallet user base of more than 50 million customers, as well as to expand other digital financial services, including digital lending, digital investment and cross border remittances across Southeast Asia.
Founded in 2013, Ascend Money is present in six Southeast Asian countries — Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam — through its TrueMoney e-wallet.
The company said it had 88,000 TrueMoney agents, and a total payment volume of $14 billion in 2020. The highest payment volume contribution was from Thailand with 84% growth between 2019 and 2020.
Targeting people who are financially excluded as well as SMEs around the region, “the unicorn achievement reinforces our ability to scale our purpose and mission,” said Monsinee Nakapanant, co-president of Ascend Money.
“Ascend Money also provides domestic and cross-border remittance services through its agent network, supporting local entrepreneurs with increased incomes,” added Tanyapong Thamavaranukupt, another co-president of the firm.
New investor Bow Wave Capital Management had raised $22.65 million for its ASP Thailand Fund in early July, DealStreetAsia had reported. The US firm is also a backer in the Philippines-based payment app Mynt, investing through a similar country-focused fund, and Indian foodtech major Zomato.
“The pandemic’s disruptive effects have accelerated the growth of the digital economy across Southeast Asia,” Itai Lemberger, founder and chief investment officer of Bow Wave Capital Management, commented on the Ascend Money investment.
Meanwhile, Ascend’s parent firm, CP Group, has what it calls C.P. Group 4.0 strategies, which include building a post-COVID-19 platform of opportunities. The Thai conglomerate has recently partnered Siam Commercial Bank to launch a new VC fund, seeking to raise $800 million.
While being the first fintech unicorn in Thailand, Ascend Money is second to logistics company Flash Express, which gained the title in June, following its Series D+ and Series E financing rounds.
Flash Express is also invested by an Alibaba entity, eWTP Capital.