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Internet group Sea first to go solo in bid for digital full bank licence

Internet group Sea, formerly known as Garena, is the first applicant to go solo in its bid for a digital full bank licence in Singapore.

INTERNET group Sea, formerly known as Garena, is the first applicant to go solo in its bid for a digital full bank licence in Singapore.

In a statement released by Sea on Tuesday, it said it will focus on addressing the unmet needs of millennials and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore, which are said to be underserved segments of the market.

It is the fourth applicant to confirm that it is gunning for one of two digital full bank licences up for grabs that will allow it to collect deposits from retail customers.

The other three players that have thrown their hats into the ring are Grab and Singtel, a Razer-led consortium, and a V3 and EZ-Link grouping known as Beyond.

The full bank licence requires an eventual capital requirement of S$1.5 billion and will also need to be Singaporean-controlled.

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NYSE-listed Sea, with a market capitalisation of more than S$25 billion, has three main businesses: e-commerce marketplace Shopee, gaming developer Garena, and digital financial services network SeaMoney.

According to its statement, it intends to draw on insights from their target segments across Sea’s digital ecosystem to “innovate processes, products and services that will improve the lives of individuals and SMEs by reducing the barriers to accessing financial services through technology”.

Sea’s founder and chairman Forrest Li, as well as its co-founder and group chief operating officer Gang Ye, are both naturalised Singaporeans. Mr Li, in particular, is the controlling shareholder with 30.6 per cent of shares and 44.4 per cent of voting rights.

“Through Garena, Shopee and SeaMoney, we have unrivalled insight into the needs and wants of millennials and SMEs across the region,” said Mr Li, in a statement.

“We have also developed exceptional capabilities in addressing these unmet needs, and have the technology, infrastructure, data analytics capabilities and management experience to design and scale Singapore’s first full digital bank.”

He added that it has also “rigorous standards of corporate governance” that will be essential for a digital bank on the back of its listing in the US.

Separately, the Monetary Authority of Singapore revealed on Tuesday that there were seven applicants for the digital full bank licences. This leaves three more applicants that have yet to announce their bid officially.

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