China’s Ant Group launches digital bank ANEXT in Singapore

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FILE PHOTO: Man walks past an Ant Group logo in Shanghai

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s Ant Group, a financial technology (fintech) giant controlled by billionaire Jack Ma, on Monday said it has launched a digital wholesale bank incorporated in Singapore, dubbed ANEXT Bank.

ANEXT received approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to commence business on June 2, Ant and wholly owned ANEXT said in a joint statement.

The move marks one of Ant’s biggest overseas pushes since its $37 billion initial public offering (IPO) was derailed by Chinese regulators in late 2020.

Ant obtained one of Singapore’s first digital wholesale banking licences at the end of 2020 allowing it to serve large clients, including financial institutions and corporations.

Ant, roughly 33% owned by e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, said ANEXT’s focus was micro, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly those with cross-border operations.

“This marks yet another milestone in Singapore’s digital bank development journey, a strategic effort to ensure the banking sector remains progressive, globally competitive and vibrant,” said MAS Chief Fintech Officer Sopnendu Mohanty.

Technology firm Sea and a venture of ride-hailing and fintech firm Grab won “digital full bank” licences in 2020, allowing the Singaporean companies to directly take deposits and offer services locally to retail as well as corporate customers.

MAS has said it expects the pair to launch digital banks this year.

Helmed by banking veteran Toh Su Mei, ANEXT will develop an open framework for financial institutions in collaboration with Proxtera, a local entity initiated by MAS and Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority, the statement showed.

ANEXT Business Account will be available for SMEs from the third quarter this year, the companies said.

(Reporting by Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh; Editing by Kim Coghill and Christopher Cushing)

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