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More Groups Submit Singapore Digital Banking License Bids

Elffie Chew and Ranjeetha Pakiam

(Bloomberg) -- More groups said they submitted bids for digital banking licenses in Singapore as companies, ranging from a property giant to Chinese fintech firms, joined forces to go for the sought-after permits.

Beyond Consortium, led by one of Asia’s largest massage chair makers, V3 Group Ltd. and stored-value card company EZ-Link Pte, submitted a bid to the Monetary Authority of Singapore for a digital full bank license, according to a statement Sunday.

Singapore-listed fintech firm iFast Corp. said on Friday that a bid was submitted at the end of December together with a consortium of Chinese partners. And on Monday, another Singapore-based fintech, Advance.AI, confirmed it has applied for a wholesale license with Sheng Ye Capital Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed financial services firm, and Singapore-based PhillipCapital.

MAS unveiled plans last year to grant as many as five virtual bank licenses to boost competition and innovation, and is set to announce the winners in mid-2020. Southeast Asia’s digital lending market is expected to more than quadruple to $110 billion by 2025, according to a report by Bain & Co., Google and Temasek Holdings Pte.

The groups join companies such as Razer Inc. and Grab Holdings Inc. in the race for such licenses in the Southeast Asian nation.

Beyond Consortium also includes the Singapore Business Federation; Temasek unit Heliconia Capital Management Pte; MSIG Insurance (Singapore) Pte, a subsidiary of Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co.; and property giant Far East Organization Pte.

The group intends to promote connectivity and support local small and medium-sized enterprises in extending their footprint in Asia, according to the statement.

iFast’s Chinese partners are Yillion Group and Hande Group. Yillion operates one of four digital banks in China and counts Hong Kong-listed Internet firm Meituan Dianping as a shareholder. Hande is a Chinese fintech company founded by Cao Tong, the former president of Webank, China’s first digital bank that’s also backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd.

iFast is tapping the unique strengths and experiences of each consortium member to better address some of the inefficiencies, and assist the under-served market segments in Singapore’s banking industry, Chief Executive Officer Lim Chung Chun said in its exchange filing.

Grab, one of Southeast Asia’s largest operators of online businesses from finance to car-hailing, is partnering with Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. to apply for a full digital banking license. Razer has teamed up with homegrown Singaporean entrepreneurs and Asian billionaires.

For the Advance.AI consortium, the license bid is “an opportunity for us to impact an under-served segment,” the company’s chief marketing officer Mi Li said, confirming an earlier report in the Business Times. “Singapore SMEs often find it impossible to get the credit they need to grow their business.”

(Updates with Sheng Ye Capital group’s bid in third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Chanyaporn Chanjaroen and Yoolim Lee.

To contact the reporters on this story: Elffie Chew in Kuala Lumpur at echew16@bloomberg.net;Ranjeetha Pakiam in Singapore at rpakiam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Stanley James

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