Telenor Waves goodbye to mobile money in Myanmar
Telenor Group has sold its 51% stake in Wave Money to the Myanmar-focused conglomerate, Yoma Strategic Holdings.
Generating $53 million from the deal, the development follows a failed stake sale to Ant Group in 2020, which was set to raise $76.5 million. Since then, Telenor has divested its Myanmar operations.
Lars Erik Tellmann (pictured), head of financial services in Telenor Group said: “Telenor is proud to have been part of Wave Money’s journey to empower the people of Myanmar with country-wide access to financial services. We have worked in partnership with Yoma Strategic to ensure that anyone from anywhere can digitally send and receive money, make contactless and secure payments in-stores or online using the market leading mobile Wallet App of Wave Money.
"We are confident that Yoma have the commitment and vision to take Wave Money forward to the next level of driving financial inclusion” Tellmann continued.
While mobile money is a cash cow for operators in many markets, Myanmar's coup had a significant impact on investor appetite and Wave user figures.
Prior to the coup, in June 2020 Telenor agreed to sell part of its stake in Wave to Alipay owner Ant Group, reducing Telenor's share to 34.2% and generating $76.5 million from Ant. However, after the platform lost more than 50% of its users in the first half of the 2021 calendar year, Ant Group pulled out of the deal. That news broke a month after Telenor sold its Myanmar operations to M1 Group for $105 million.
Telenor said today's development completed the divestment process announced in 2020.
Prior to the coup, Telenor Group said Wave Money processed a total of $8.7 billion in remittance and payments in 2020, equivalent to 12% of Myanmar's GDP.
Launched in November 2016 as a joint venture between Yoma Bank and Telenor Group, Wave Money runs a network of more than 45,000 active agents in urban and rural areas across 295 out of the 330 townships nationwide. Telenor said the business has seen a "significant recovery in volumes since June 2021", and that it expects the trend to continue.
Melvyn Pun, CEO of Yoma Strategic said: “This acquisition reinforces Yoma Strategic’s desire to build a strong financial and technology ecosystem in the country over the long term. The digitization in the economy, in particular in financial services, has been remarkable for Myanmar. We are pleased that Wave Money has positively transformed the way of life of people in Myanmar, bringing financial inclusion to the mass.”
Once concluded, the divestment will see Yoma Strategic become the largest – and therefore controlling – shareholder of Wave Money, which was previously a JV between Telenor Group, Yoma Bank and Yoma Strategic Holdings.