Malaysia’s Largest Telecom Firm Plans to Bid for Digital Bank License

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Malaysia’s largest telecommunications company said it plans to bid for a digital banking license, as the country prepares to open up its finance industry to non-bank firms.

Axiata Group Bhd. is in talks with 11 potential partners about readying a proposal, the firm’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Mohd Izzaddin Idris said in Kuala Lumpur Friday. They include banks and e-wallet operators, he said, while declining to name the firms.

Axiata would join non-banks such as Grab Holdings Inc., Ant Financial and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. in seeking entry to digital finance in Asia. Hong Kong is set to see eight virtual lenders start operations this year, while Singapore plans to award up to five licenses to non-banks by June. Thailand is also laying the foundations for a similar initiative.

Malaysia’s central bank issued a draft policy in December for establishing digital banks. It plans to offer up to five licenses by the end of 2020, after finalizing the policy in the first half of the year.

Axiata is in discussions with the central bank and expects its digital banking operation to start in the second half of next year, providing it gets approval, Mohd Izzadin said. Axiata is the largest Malaysian telecoms firm by revenue.

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