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With $40-M additional funding and giant backers, PLDT unit prepares for tech war

/ 05:01 AM November 27, 2018

Voyager Innovations, the technology unit of PLDT Inc. that developed mobile wallet PayMaya, has secured a $40-million commitment from the World Bank’s International Finance Corp., which joined China’s Tencent and United States-based KKR in the largest ever investment deal involving a Filipino tech company.

PLDT, in a stock exchange filing on Monday, said the transaction would be carried out through IFC and IFC Emerging Asia Fund.

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Together with Tencent and KKR’s $175-million commitment, the funding from IFC will arm Voyager with a $215-million war chest to pursue further expansion in the Philippines, where PayMaya competes with the likes of GCash, backed by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Financial and local conglomerate Ayala Corp.

“Our mission is to accelerate digital and financial inclusion in the Philippines, so all Filipinos can participate in the digital economy. IFC and IFC Emerging Asia Fund’s investment will enable us to scale up our efforts especially in the digital financial services space,” Voyager CEO Orlando Vea said in a statement.

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Vea earlier said the money raised would mainly be used to expand the company’s financial technology platforms, including PayMaya, which is expected to have around 20 million users by 2020. The company does not disclose user figures, however, officials have earlier suggested that the current number was a fraction of the 2020 target.

The deal with WeChat developer Tencent, fund manager KKR and IFC is expected to close before the end of 2018. Once completed, PLDT’s stake in Voyager will fall below 50 percent, but it will remain the company’s single-largest shareholder.

PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan earlier explained PLDT decided to pare its holdings in Voyager to access outside support for the latter’s increasing spending requirements. Voyager’s units have shown high growth potential, however, profitably remains elusive at this stage.

“We at PLDT are quite happy to welcome the investment of the International Finance Corporation and the IFC Emerging Asia Fund in Voyager Innovations. In this undertaking, we are kindred spirits. Through its Global Innovative Retail Payments Program, IFC aims to make financial services much more accessible and affordable to the world’s low-income population by supporting innovative financial services. That is precisely the goal that PLDT is pursuing through Voyager’s platforms,” Pangilinan said in the same statement.

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