Singapore Startup Sea Buys Indonesian Bank BKE

Singapore tech startup Sea has acquired Indonesia’s PT Bank Kesejahteraan Ekonomi (Bank BKE) for an undisclosed amount, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday (Jan. 13), citing unnamed sources.

Sea, Southeast Asia’s biggest tech startup, now fully controls the Jarkata bank after buying stakes via its subsidiary Turbo Cash Hong Kong. The shares were purchased from existing shareholders PT Danadipa Artha Indonesia and PT Koin Investama Nusantara Ltd., according to the sources, per Bloomberg.

The acquisition aligns with Sea’s goal to grow its position as a FinTech trailblazer across its region. Last month the company raised close to $3 billion in a stock offering it said would go toward expansion efforts. The company also was granted a digital bank license in Singapore last month. 

Southeast Asia’s accelerating digital banking space has attracted the attention of numerous big tech firms looking for an inroad. The competitive landscape includes Gojek, which bought a 22.16 percent stake in PT Bank Jago for about $160 million. Grab and Singapore Telecommunications also collaborated to launch a joint venture last month.

Backed by Facebook and PayPal, Gojek’s digital wallet GoPay competes with Sea’s eWallet ShopeePay and Ovo, backed by Grab and Tokopedia. 

Sea was among the four companies chosen by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to receive digital banking licenses. Other banking license recipients include China’s Ant Group and a consortium of Greenland Financial Holdings Group, Linklogis Hong Kong Ltd., and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management Co. 

Chinese investors have developed a keen interest in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy, driving up tech investment about 55 percent. China looked to Indonesia following new rules in India that aimed to put a stop to Chinese takeovers.

Sea filed with the SEC in December to offer 11 million American Depositary Shares (ADSs). A 30-day option was extended to underwriters to purchase an additional 1.65 million ADSs on the same terms. Founded in 2009, the company operates online game developer Garena; the eCommerce platform Shopee; and digital financial services unit SeaMoney.

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