China’s Tencent – best known for its super app WeChat – and global investment firm KKR have agreed to acquire “substantial” minority stakes in Philippine technology firm Voyager that could be worth up to US$175 million.
Once sealed within this quarter, it’ll mark Tencent’s first-ever investment in the Philippines and kick its battle with Chinese giant Alibaba up a notch.
PLDT – one half of the Philippines’ telco duopoly – will remain Voyager’s largest shareholder. It has the option to sell more shares in the unit to other investors which would potentially reduce its ownership to below 50 percent.
The external funding for Voyager is the largest investment to date in a Philippine tech firm, claims the company.
Voyager mainly develops fintech platforms, with mobile wallet PayMaya as its most recognizable product. PayMaya lets Filipinos send money, shop and pay bills online, and buy phone credit.
The sale comes as PLDT plans to invest more in its legacy telecoms business while disposing of non-core assets. PLDT also sold its shares in Germany’s Rocket Internet in May.
PLDT previously disclosed that it was looking for a new investor in Voyager, which posted P1.3 billion (US$24 million) in losses in the first half of 2018.
Apart from PayMaya, Voyager also owns mobile-based remittance network Smart Padala, loans marketplace Lendr, and free internet and rewards app Freenet.
It rivals Mynt, the operator of another local mobile wallet GCash. Last year, Alibaba unit Ant Financial – maker of China’s largest mobile wallet Alipay – took a stake in Mynt, which is part of the Globe Telecom group, PLDT’s nemesis.
PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan earlier said the value of the Voyager deal would be enough to recoup about P10 billion (US$184 million) worth of their investments in the firm.
Chinese tech giants have been pouring money in Southeast Asia in a bid to capture more than 600 million consumers and a rising middle class.
Alibaba now owns ecommerce leader Lazada and has invested in Indonesia’s Tokopedia. Its affiliate Ant Financial’s investments include fintech firms Ascend Finance in Bangkok and M-Daq in Singapore – apart from Manila’s Mynt.
On the other hand, Tencent owns ecommerce giant JD, which has presence in Indonesia and has invested in ride-hailing and payments app Go-Jek.