Voyager to seek fresh funding to continue growth — president

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VOYAGER Innovations Inc., the digital arm of PLDT, Inc., will need additional funding to meet its growth requirements in 2022 and beyond, the company’s president said.

“We believe that for us to continue our growth, we need to be able to provide an end-to-end system… For us to be able to do that…, we need to invest, our shareholders including PLDT and Smart,” Voyager President Shailesh Baidwan said at a virtual briefing last week.

PLDT announced in June that Voyager had raised an additional $167 million (P8.15 billion) for the expansion of its financial technology unit PayMaya Philippines, Inc., including the establishment of a digital bank.

“[F]or our 2022 and beyond plans, we will be talking to our investors, and as part of that, we will decide on whether we want to keep it internal or get some other investors that would make sense for us to bring [in] as part of the mix. We will see our valuation at the next round when we get to it,” Mr. Baidwan, who is also the president of PayMaya, added.

Voyager’s shareholders include PLDT, global investment firm KKR, Chinese technology firm Tencent, and World Bank’s IFC Asset Management Company through its IFC Emerging Asia Fund and IFC Financial Growth Fund.

Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of PLDT, Voyager and PayMaya, said PayMaya “was valued at $747 million” in the last fund-raising exercise.

“[But] given the improvements…, the digital bank and with the gross transaction value increasing, I think our sense is that it’s about a billion US dollars,” he added.

“Of course, it’s subject to market test, but our sense is that we’ve probably achieved the unicorn status as we speak. It’s not quite at the level of Globe yet, but it’s about a billion US dollars.”

GCash operator Globe Fintech Innovations, Inc. (Mynt) announced on Nov. 2 that it raised over $300 million in fresh funding, bringing its valuation to more than $2 billion.

Mynt said GCash now has more than 48 million users, or nearly half of the national population. It aims to reach P3 trillion in gross transaction value this year, which would be three times more than the previous year’s record number.

For its part, PayMaya now has more than 41 million registered users across its consumer platforms, according to Mr. Baidwan.

He said PayMaya expects a 50% growth in gross transaction value by the end of 2021.

Orlando B. Vea, Voyager and PayMaya chief executive officer and founder, said in May that the digital payments company had processed P700-billion worth of transactions in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas granted in September a digital banking license to PayMaya’s Maya Bank, which will be launched in the first quarter of 2022.

With the launch of Maya Bank and the expected higher gross transaction value, Mr. Pangilinan hopes that starting 2022, PayMaya’s valuation will be “higher.”

“I don’t think the market yet appreciates the impact of the increasing value of PayMaya onto the share price of PLDT,” he said.

For the first nine months, PLDT’s attributable net income declined 4.6% to P18.8 billion from P19.7 billion a year ago.

PLDT’s telco core income, which excludes the impact of asset sales and Voyager Innovations, climbed “10% year on year, or P2.1 billion, to P23.1 billion in the first nine months of 2021, helped by lower tax rates,” the company said in a statement.

PLDT shares closed 1.60% higher at P1,650 apiece on Friday.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin

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