International Investment Interest Grows in Asia’s Infrastructure, Fintech, and More

New data confirms that Vietnam has attracted $5.46 billion USD worth of foreign direct investment (FDI) as of February. South African digital bank Tyme has raised $110 million in private capital and partnered up with JG Summit- one of the biggest conglomerates in the Philippines- to apply for a local digital bank licence. Traveloka, Southeast Asia's biggest travel app plans regional fintech expansion before 2021 listing.

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Microsoft to Establish First Datacenter Region in Indonesia as Part of Berdayakan Ekonomi Digital Indonesia Initiative

Microsoft announced its Berdayakan Ekonomi Digital Indonesia initiative, which marks a significant commitment to advancing growth and digital transformation for Indonesia, its vibrant developer and startup ecosystem, enterprises, and the public sector.

As part of the plan, Microsoft will establish its first datacenter region in Indonesia to deliver trusted cloud services locally, with world-class data security, privacy, and the ability to store data in the country. Microsoft also announced plans to skill an additional 3 million Indonesians to achieve its goal of empowering over 24 million citizens by the end of 2021, through its long-established skills programs designed to create inclusive economic opportunities in the digital era.

The announcement will play a pivotal role in accelerating the country’s digital transformation, toward its vision of becoming Southeast Asia’s leading digital economy. According to research from IDC, Microsoft’s investment in Indonesia is expected to generate up to USD $6.3 billion in new revenues from the country’s ecosystem of local customers and partners. In addition, its cloud-consuming businesses are expected to contribute 60,000 jobs to the local economy, over the next four years.

“Microsoft has a long-term commitment to Indonesia’s growth[...] I am delighted that we are helping to empower Indonesia to realize its vision to lead the region’s digital transformation[...] With a local datacenter region, businesses will have faster access to cloud services and the ability for data to be stored in the country. To ensure everyone can take advantage of the digital opportunities ahead, we will continue to support digital skilling, with a new program that will reach over 24 million Indonesians by the end of 2021,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations.

Vietnam Lures $5.46B in Foreign Investment

As much as $5.46 billion USD worth of foreign direct investment (FDI) was injected into Vietnam as of February 20, equivalent to 84.4% of the figure recorded in the same time last year, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

In Vietnam, over 126 foreign projects were granted investment licenses with total registered capital of $3.31 billion, a year-on-year fall of 33.9%. Concurrently, 115 existing projects adjusted their investment capital with a total additional sum of $1.61 billion, or 2.5 times higher than the same time last year.

Saigon Online reports that capital contributions and shares purchases by foreign investors stood at $543.1 million, down 34.4 %. Foreign investors pumped capital in 17 sectors, with processing and manufacturing holding the lead with over $3 billion or 55.7 %, followed by power production and distribution with $1.44 billion (26.5%), real estate $485 million, and science-technology nearly $153 million.

South African Digital Bank Tyme Teams Up with JG Summit to Expand into Philippines

South African digital bank Tyme has raised $110 million in private capital and partnered up with JG Summit- one of the biggest conglomerates in the Philippines- to apply for a local digital bank licence, a top Tyme executive told Reuters.

Reuters reports that Tyme, majority-owned by South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, will use most of the money, mainly from private equity fund Apis Partners, to expand TymeBank in South Africa, Coen Jonker, co-founder and executive chairman of Tyme said.

“We believe that the future of digital banking in emerging markets is multi-country, to actually build a banking group where there is enough critical mass of customers,” Jonker said in an interview on Monday.

Across Asia, regulators are opening up banking to digital players, encouraged by a boom in mobile connectivity and the prospect of tech firms offering low-cost financing services. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for digital transactions.In the Philippines, the central bank last November approved rules allowing the creation and licensing of digital banks. Last December, Singapore gave out four digital banking licences.

“For us, The Philippines represents the best fit in terms of our business and operating model to expand, and JG Summit the best partner in terms of the retail capacity that they have and their loyalty programmes,” added Jonker.

Southeast Asia's Biggest Travel App Plans Regional Fintech Expansion Before 2021 Listing

Traveloka, Southeast Asia’s largest online travel startup, plans to launch financial services in Thailand and Vietnam as it eyes a U.S. listing through a blank-check company, its president said.

The Indonesian company, which counts Expedia and China’s among its backers, is seeing a strong rebound in its business after demand plummeted amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traveloka, which says it has 40 million active monthly users, is developing “buy now, pay later” services for Thailand and Vietnam markets.

“The plan is to invest in fintech in a big way to allow more consumers to travel in the region,” said the company’s president, Caesar Indra, adding that the travel business had returned to profitability in late 2020.
“We recently formed a joint venture with one of the largest banks in Thailand to collaborate in the fintech space,” Indra said. Traveloka, which has smaller local rivals, is also talking to potential partners in Vietnam, but Indra declined to name the parties.

Traveloka, also backed by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and Indonesian venture firm East Ventures, has grown its local lifestyle services in Indonesia, where it offers restaurant vouchers and a food delivery service, as well as a popular rapid COVID-19 testing.

Indra said the company is Indonesia’s largest restaurant review app. Traveloka, which has been preparing for a listing, is holding discussions with special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, for a U.S. listing.

“U.S. markets have become more appealing because there’s more and more appreciation of Southeast Asia as a flourishing region, and by listing in the U.S, we can also provide an opportunity for U.S investors to become part of Southeast Asia’s growth story,” Indra said.

Coalition of Over a Million Businesses Say ‘No’ to Domestic Travel Ban

A coalition of nearly one million businesses has warned that any plans to prolong the ban on domestic travel will kill more businesses. Calling for targeted enhanced movement control orders (EMCOs) in areas which have clusters of Covid-19 cases, the federation of 262 business associations and chambers of commerce also hoped to see the government employ strategies based on empirical data to better manage the pandemic.

“For us, the best (approach) is to lock down areas where there are cases,” explained the Managing Director of the Mydin hypermarket chain.

Free Malaysia reports that the health director-general Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah said last week that the ban on inter-district and interstate travel may remain until at least 70% of the population had been vaccinated from COVID-19, which can only be achieved by February 2022 according to the government’s vaccination plan.

The Business Survival Group also called for the use of a “whole-of-government” approach to tackling the pandemic, noting that the Emergency Ordinance allows private hospitals and general practitioners to carry out 30% of the national immunization program so as to achieve herd immunity faster.

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