People sit on a bench using mobile phones on Orchard Road in Singapore. (Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg)  

Singtel Taps 50 Million Users Making Mobile Payments in Asia

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(Bloomberg) -- Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. plans to create a platform that connects mobile wallets across Asia, enabling users to pay digitally in the countries its partners operate.

The initiative will begin commercially in mid-2018 between Singapore and Thailand, where Singtel and partner Advanced Info Service Pcl have obtained regulatory approval, the company said in a statement. The service is targeted at travelers and small-to-medium sized enterprises, according to Singtel, which is Southeast Asia’s biggest phone company.

"Think of this as a Star Alliance of telco wallets,” said Arthur Lang, the chief executive officer of Singtel’s international group, referring to the global network of more than two dozen airlines. “We definitely welcome and are open to anyone who wants to come into our network.”

Singtel plans to expand the platform to include mobile wallets provided by associates such as those in the Philippines, India and Indonesia, where they are the biggest mobile operators in their markets, from the second half of this year. It may also include digital payment services from non-telecom providers in the future, Lang said.

The stock rose as much as 0.3 percent after the announcement, and was unchanged at S$3.48 at the Singapore close.

The network operator is seeking to become a regional mobile wallet platform as Asian consumers increasingly opt for digital payments and rely less on cash. Asia is an important market for digital payments where non-banks such as Ant Financial Services Co., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Grab vie for business with financial services companies such as DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Southeast Asia’s largest lender.

Singtel currently has more than 50 million registered users of mobile wallets across its associates in South and Southeast Asia, Lang said, where they have more than 590 million customers. Consumers who don’t have contracts with Singtel or its partners are also able to use the mobile wallet platform, he added.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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