Behind the two major Philippine e-wallets is not just the battle between the two operators, but also the competition between Tencent and Alibaba.

On October 5, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) announced that Tencent and KKR were to buy part of Voyager Innovations Inc., PLDT’s payments company, at $175 million.

It is the biggest investment yet in the Philippine tech field. The deal is expected to finish in Q4, 2018, with PLDT remaining a big shareholder in Voyager Innovations.

The investment shows that Tencent finally starts layout in the Philippines, chasing after Ant Financial. Mynt, Voyager’s strongest competitor, received an investment from Ant Financial last February.


The main product of Mynt is e-wallet GCash

Voyager was founded in 2013, and owns e-wallet PayMaya, remittance service provider Smart Padala, lending platform Lendr, and PayMaya Business, which provides solutions for enterprises.

PayMaya, Voyager’s e-wallet

Origins of PLDT and Rocekt Internet

PLDT, Voyager’s largest shareholder, is a Philippine telecom giant, and owns mobile operator Smart. Interestingly, its rival Mynt is backed by Globe, a larger Philippine mobile operator.

Previously, PLDT’s biggest move in the Internet sector was to invest 333 million euros in Rocket Internet in 2014, and took a 10 percent stake in the latter before Rocket Internet went public in Frankfurt.

But it is said that Manuel Pangilinan, PLDT’s chairman, was unhappy with the investment. The investment was meant to give PLDT a foothold on the mobile Internet, while Oliver Samwer, Rocket’s founder, solely took the money as financial investment.

PLDT was once close with Rocket Internet. In the middle of the picture is Manuel Pangilinan, the chairman of PLDT.

PLDT sold its shares of Rocket Internet at 163 million euros in April.


The mobile Internet in the Philippines has long been criticized for high prices and slow speed, which is mainly caused by the duopoly of Globe and Smart. It is for the reason that several companies owned by Rocket grew at limited pace in the Philippines. Luckily, the infrastructures there are much better in recent two years, perhaps due to a strong new President.

Globle and Smart have long valued the strong market potentials of payments and related financial services. More than 10 million Filipinos work abroad, and remittance alone amounts to $28 billion a year.

Layout by Tencent

It’s not the first time Tencent and KKR have partnered in southeast Asia. They once jointly invested in Grab’s rival Go-Jek.

Previously, the layout made by Tencent and Alibaba in southeast Asia was that: Alibaba owned e-commerce company Lazada and invested in Tokopedia; Ant Financial intested in Mynt, a Thail financial tech company named Ascend Finance, a wallet company owned by Malaysian highway charging company Touch n Go, and Singaporean cross-border payment company M-Daq. Ant Financial also jointly lauched a wallet Dana with Indonesian company Emtek.

Jack Ma met the President of the Philippines, and Eric Jing, the CEO of Ant Financial, sat beside Ma.

Tencent, for its part, is a major shareholder in Go-Jek and e-commerce company Shopee. It had no move in the payments sector other than implementing WeChat Payment in Malaysia, which has a large Chinese population.

Overall, Ant Financial has much better layout than Tencent at faster pace. Even though there are many different challenges in the development, Ant Financial will still lead the field with all their resources and ability to learn. What’s more, in addition to investing, some of Ant Financial’s affiliates operate in southeast Asia.

The Philippines cannot be ignored

The investment in Voyager is the first time that Tencent and KKR to invest in the Philippine market, indicating that international capital and big enterprise have paid attention to it. Though entrepreneurs who developed in southeast Asia largely focused on Indonesia and Thailand, Momentum Works realized that ‘it’s time to reconsider the Philippine market’ as far back as November last year.

Data for 2017 showed that the Philippines had a total population of 103 million, 44 percent of whom are urban population. And 13 million peole live in the capital Manila. Its GDP has increased by an average of 6.2% over the past six years, and is expected to grow at around 7% for the next two years. Its per capita GDP in 2017 was nearly $3,000 (more than that of Vietnam, slightly less than that of Indonesia) and is expected to grow to $5,740 by 2028.

The Philippine market has many advantages: a large population, fast economic growth, massive overseas remittances, strong willingness to spend, high acceptance of things from the outside world, high use rate of social media, and well-developed Internet celebrity economy. Generally speaking, it is a market with great development potentials.

Philipine politics are stable in past two years, and the government began to develop the economy on these advantages. The Philippines has a large and growing number of young population, and its dependency ratio will decline over the next 30 years, providing an ample workforce, freeing up more government and household resources and spurring more saving and investment.

Unexpected Player

Interestingly, there is also a foreign player offering payment service in the Philippines, which has also made great progress recently. It has offered remittance, recharge and payment servuces in many online merchants.

True Money owned by Ascend, which is invested by Ant Financial in Thailand.

For Ant Financial, at this early stage in the market, the more fierce competition that the companies it invest in meet, the more successful its overall layout is.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].