Telenor Group announced news on Tuesday (March 13) that it made a strategic partnership with Ant Financial Services Group in which Ant acquires a 45 percent stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank, a unit of Telenor Group.
In a press release, Telenor said Ant is investing $184.5 million for the stake. The partnership will combine Telenor Microfinance’s knowledge and its more than 20 million customers with Alipay, the digital payment platform, and other financial services to bring mobile payments and financial inclusion to individuals and small and micro-businesses in Pakistan.
Telenor Microfinance Bank offers a mobile financial services platform that has launched the largest branchless banking service in the country. It also provides microfinance and financial services to the unbanked and less privileged segments of Pakistani society.
“Partnering with a world-leading payment provider like Ant Financial will strengthen Telenor Microfinance Bank’s future payment platform and set new standards in the digital banking business in Pakistan. The establishment of this partnership is well in line with the expressed Telenor strategy of focusing our financial services efforts in emerging markets, making sure that we’re able to build and modernize the businesses in line with customer needs. I’m truly excited about the opportunities this partnership brings for Telenor Microfinance Bank going forward,” said Sigve Brekke, CEO of Telenor Group, in the press release.
According to Telenor, which cited the World Bank, more than 100 million Pakistanis are unbanked, representing 5 percent of the world’s unbanked population. That is expected to change over the coming years, thanks in large part to broader adoption rates of smartphones. Telenor Microfinance’s partnership with Ant Financial will help it prepare for that transition.
“Ant Financial is pleased to be in this strategic partnership with Telenor Group. Alipay’s technologies make us uniquely placed to achieve our mission of bringing the world equal opportunities. Today, we are very happy to share our technology know-how with Telenor Microfinance Bank to bring improved user experience on the Easypaisa mobile payment platform, as well as [to] provide inclusive financial services in a transparent, safe, low-cost and efficient way to the unbanked and underbanked population in Pakistan,” said Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial, in the same press release.