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Singapore tycoons team up to vie for digital banking licence

(PHOTO: Getty Creative)

By Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, Abhishek Vishnoi and Joyce Koh

(Bloomberg) -- Ron Sim, founder of one of Asia’s largest massage chair makers, is in talks to partner with a unit of Temasek Holdings Pte. and other firms to bid for one of Singapore’s new virtual banking licenses, according to people familiar with the matter.

V3 Group Ltd., Sim’s Singapore-based firm, is discussing forming a consortium with Temasek’s Heliconia Capital Management Pte, as well as stored-value card company EZ-Link Pte and property giant Far East Organization Pte, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions remain private. The group plans to seek one of Singapore’s new retail digital banking licenses, they said.

The city-state has announced plans to award as many as five digital banking licenses to non-bank firms as it seeks to shake up its financial-services industry and create competition for traditional lenders. Thresholds are higher for the two retail licenses available -- they require S$1.5 billion in paid-up capital as well as local control.

A representative for V3 said the firm is committed to developing digital financial offerings for the underserved in Singapore and the region, but didn’t comment on its specific plans. Heliconia, EZ-Link, and Far East Organization declined to comment.

Financial Technology

V3, which owns massage-chair maker OSIM and tea brand TWG, recently created a financial technology unit. It announced Thursday it hired Gan Chee Yen, formerly the chief executive officer of Fullerton Financial Holdings, another Temasek unit, as a senior adviser for the fintech unit. Last year, KKR & Co. said it will invest up to S$500 million ($367 million) for a stake in V3.

Far East Organization is Singapore’s largest private real-estate developer, with assets from residential to commercial properties. The company is led by Chief Executive Officer Philip Ng, whose family owns the firm, and is among the ten richest people in Singapore, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

EZ-Link, founded by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority in 2002, supplies a contactless payment system for the nation’s public transport services.

Another Temasek unit, Vertex Ventures, is part of a different group that will apply for another digital bank license. The members of the consortium to seek a wholesale permit include peer-to-peer lender Validus Capital Pte, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. and Keppel Corp.


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