Axiata plans to bid for digital bank licence

Axiata will join non-banks such as Grab Holdings Inc, Ant Financial and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd in seeking entry into digital finance in Asia.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s largest telecommunications company said it plans to bid for a digital banking licence, as the country prepares to open up its finance industry to non-bank firms.

Axiata Group Bhd. is in talks with 11 potential partners about readying a proposal, the firm’s deputy CEO Mohd Izzaddin Idris said today.

They include banks and e-wallet operators, he said, declining to name the firms.

Axiata will join non-banks such as Grab Holdings Inc, Ant Financial and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd in seeking entry to digital finance in Asia.

Hong Kong is set to see eight virtual lenders start operations this year, while Singapore plans to award up to five licences to non-banks by June.

Thailand is also laying the foundations for a similar initiative.

Malaysia’s central bank issued a draft policy in December for establishing digital banks.

It plans to offer up to five licences by the end of 2020, after finalisng the policy in the first half of the year.

Axiata is in discussions with the central bank and expects its digital banking operation to start in the second half of next year, providing it gets approval, Izzadin said.

Axiata is the largest Malaysian telecoms firm by revenue.