Myanmar’s leading mobile wallet, Wave Money, has lost over 50% of its monthly active app users, taking the count from “more than 2 million” in January to 1 million as of May 31. This development follows Ant Group’s scuttled plans to take a stake in the fintech startup for USD 73 million.
Singapore-listed Yoma Strategic Holdings, which currently holds a 44% stake in Wave Money, said on August 11 that the fintech subsidiary has seen a month-on-month “double-digit growth rate” in transaction volume since its Wave Pay mobile app became available for public use on May 3. Wave Money facilitates bill payments, local remittances, and over-the-counter transaction services through Wave Pay.
Myanmar’s junta blocked mobile internet services on March 15. The block remained in place until late April when authorities opened access to a handful of mobile banking applications and Microsoft’s Office 365 services. Even so, some banned sites, including Facebook and Twitter, cannot be reached without the use of a virtual private network.
“While overall revenue and transaction volumes have been affected by the broader slowdown in economic activity and the availability of cash in the over-the-counter business, EBITDA remained positive, supported by stringent cost control measures,” Yoma said in a filing.
Myanmar’s economy is expected to contract 18% this year due to the ongoing political turmoil and the third wave of COVID-19 infections, according to a World Bank report published on July 26. “Despite bank branch re-openings and several interventions from the Central Bank of Myanmar, physical currency continues to be in short supply, and access to banking and payment services remains limited,” the report said.
Last June, Ant Financial, the fintech affiliate of Alibaba, said it would invest USD 73.5 million for a minority stake in Wave Money. Shortly after, Yoma announced it would take over Telenor’s 51% control of Wave Money in a USD 76.5 million deal.
But Yoma indicated in its filing submitted to SGX on May 17 that the deals were off.
Wave Money mobilized a total of MMK 12 trillion (USD 8.7 billion) in 2020, doubling 2019’s MMK 6.4 trillion (USD 4.3 billion). As of September 2020, it had 27 million unique customers, up from 21 million in May 2019. The aggregate capital involved in Wave Money’s transactions is equivalent to more than 11.5% of Myanmar’s estimated 2020 GDP of USD 75.5 billion, according to a company statement published in January.
Before the coup, the startup registered over 3.9 million over-the-counter monthly active users in January, but the latest figures were not disclosed in Wave Money’s most recent announcement.