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Singapore’s Sea acquires Indonesian bank to gain foothold in financial tech

·2-min read
(Source: Bank BKE)
(Source: Bank BKE)

By Yoolim Lee

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore’s Sea Ltd., the tech startup that’s become Southeast Asia’s most valuable company, has acquired Indonesia’s PT Bank Kesejahteraan Ekonomi, according to people familiar with the matter.

Sea has gained full control of the Jakarta-based lender, better known as Bank BKE, after buying stakes from existing shareholders PT Danadipa Artha Indonesia and PT Koin Investama Nusantara through its subsidiary Turbo Cash Hong Kong Ltd., said the people who asked not to be named as the matter is private.

The move accelerates the company’s ambition to establish itself as a leader in financial technology and services across its region, much as it has done with mobile gaming and online shopping. Sea raised almost US$3 billion in a stock offering last month, saying it intends to spend the proceeds on business expansion.

Representatives of Sea and Bank BKE declined to comment. Bank BKE began operations in 1992 with the primary goal of supporting the welfare of civil servants, according to its website.

Southeast Asia’s biggest internet companies are all vying for a share of a growing digital banking arena. Sea secured a license to open a digital bank in Singapore in December, joining an increasingly competitive field that also features a joint venture between Grab Holdings Inc. and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. Gojek last month paid roughly US$160 million to increase its stake in PT Bank Jago to 22.16%, making its biggest investment in financial services to date.

Gojek, which is backed by Facebook Inc. and PayPal Holdings Inc., aims to let users open bank accounts with Jago and then manage their finances through its app. Its e-wallet GoPay, which extends digital financial services to merchants and drivers, competes with Sea’s e-wallet ShopeePay and Ovo, backed by Grab and Tokopedia.

DealStreetAsia first reported Sea’s acquisition of Bank BKE.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.