BANGKOK (AP) — Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor plans to sell its 51% stake in the Myanmar fintech company Wave Money to its main partner in the venture, Yoma Strategic Holdings.
Telenor confirmed the $53 million deal, reported earlier, in a statement seen Tuesday on its website.
Yoma was founded by Myanmar tycoon Serge Pun. The purchase gives it a 75% stake in the company, formally known as Digital Money Myanmar Ltd. The remainder is held by private investors.
Wave Money provides money transfer and digital payments services. It has played a critical role in Myanmar’s financial dealings, especially after ordinary banking services were disrupted following the military’s seizure of power on Feb. 1, 2021.
Telenor has been seeking to withdraw from Myanmar since then, but it has so far not finalized a planned sale of its mobile phone networks, announced in July, to the M1 Group, a Lebanese-based investment firm.
Telenor wrote off the value of that business after the military takeover ignited a public backlash and the authorities imposed limits on mobile and internet access.
In 2020, Wave Money processed $8.7 billion in payments, equivalent to about 12% of Myanmar's GDP, according to Telenor. It has 45,000 “Wave Shops” across the country.
According to a detailed list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 1,400 civilians have perished as security forces have quashed nonviolent demonstrations against the Myanmar’s military's takeover, which deposed the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Peaceful protests have continued, but an armed resistance to the crackdown has been building, to the point that U.N. experts have warned the country could be sliding into civil war.