Myanmar’s AGD Bank Seeks Foreign Partners, Has Talked With Uber

Myanmar’s Asia Green Development Bank Ltd. is seeking foreign partners and has held talks with Uber Technologies Inc. as it seeks to harness digital platforms to service the most under-banked country in Asia.

The lender’s search for ride-sharing partners included “very preliminary” discussions with Uber’s Myanmar head, AGD Bank’s Managing Director Htoo Htet Tay Za said in interviews with Bloomberg in Yangon on Thursday. The lender is seeking to benefit from “huge” appetite for technology in a country where 50 percent of the population is aged under 45, he said.

Even as it bolsters its mobile platforms, the Yangon-based bank faces two challenges in Myanmar: the lowest mobile-phone penetration rate in Asia and poor financial literacy. About 77 percent of the population in one of the region’s smallest economies has no access to financial services, according to consultancy Roland Berger. Some 38 percent of Myanmar’s people had mobile-phone subscriptions in 2015, compared with 95 percent in regional leader Hong Kong, GSMA Intelligence estimates.

“Financial inclusion for AGD Bank is our top priority,” Htoo Htet Tay Za said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin. “The real opportunity that’s present here is that we should be using fintech and a digital platform to leapfrog brick-and-mortar approaches and tap into the unbanked market.”

The 24-year-old bank chief expects growth in AGD’s mobile-banking users to reach 50 percent annually, he said, without giving most recent expansion rates. AGD formed a tie-up with Thailand’s True Money Co. two years ago to offer mobile services such as money transfers, he said. The partnership allows the bank to help remit money from Myanmar nationals living in Thailand, he said.

AGD, majority owned by the Tay Za family, got its banking license in 2010 and is among 24 privately owned banks in the country. Tay Za, Htoo Htet Tay Za’s father, was once sanctioned by the U.S. in 2007 along with his Htoo Group of Companies and his wife in a program targeting financial backers of the Burmese military regime.

The U.S. lifted sanctions against the Southeast Asian nation along with individuals and entities in October, citing “substantial advances to promote democracy” as well as progress on human rights.

Source: Bloomberg

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