Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition
Finablr is rebranding as WizzFinancial as part of the merger. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 August 2021

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition

Emirati-Swiss consortium creates MENA remittance giant with Bahrain acquisition
  • Prism Group and Royal Strategic Partners to acquire BFC Group Holding
  • BFC to be merged with Finablr and rebranded WizzFinancial

DUBAI: An Emirati-Swiss consortium is acquiring Bahrain’s BFC Group Holding, which owns the Gulf country’s largest money transfer and exchange company.

Switzerland’s Prism Group AG and Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Partners have signed a deal to acquire BFC and its subsidiaries – BFC Bahrain, BEC Exchange (Kuwait), BFC Payments and BFC Forex and Financial Services (India).

BFC will be merged with WizzFinancial, formerly Finablr, the Abu Dhabi-based payments company acquired by the same consortium in December.

The deal creates one of the largest remittance and currency exchange groups in the Middle East and North Africa region, home to millions of migrants who regularly sending money home and vice versa.

“The acquisition creates a regional powerhouse with licenses to operate in over 30 countries,” the consortium said in a press statement.

The move comes amid a period of intense change for the financial sector as it adopts new technologies to create better user experiences. 

“Everybody in the financial services arena is embarking on a digital transformation of some kind,” Anthony Wagerman, an adviser at Prism Group told Arab News. “It’s not really a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, and it’s a matter of how long that takes and ensuring your customers are with you.”

While a large part of the remittance market continues to rely on “tried and tested methodology,” the traditional money-sending sector has been disrupted by COVID-19, which “undoubtedly acted as a form of catalyst or accelerator for this digital journey,” he said.

The consortium’s investment in the businesses it is acquiring will help speed their digital transformation, but it is important to recognize that some customers will continue to use traditional methods, said Wagerman.

“We want to create a seamless service that’s completely omnichannel, from walk-up to online to mobile, because that is really the way the market is going now,” he said.

The deal comes amid evidence of impressive resilience in the sector during the COVID pandemic with remittance flows of $540 billion in 2020, just 1.6 percent below 2019 levels, according to World Bank data. That compares with a 4.8 percent decline during the global financial crisis.

Moreover, the remittance industry is set to almost double to $930.44 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research.

“The reports we’re seeing of the first coming up to the first half of 2021 is really quiet encouraging, and have shown a lot of businesses snapping back rather more quickly than people originally envisaged,” Wagerman said.

Asked how blockchain technology plays a role in the remittance industry’s digital journey, he said there is still a strong need for regulation in this area given the variation in countries’ different rules.

“There’s an overall attractiveness about having frictionless payments that avoided intermediaries, of course there is. The reality however is not so simple, not least because when money crosses borders, there’s all kind of issues particularly from a regulatory perspective,” Wagerman explained.


European shares slide 1% to near two-month low on global growth worries

European shares slide 1% to near two-month low on global growth worries
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 8 sec ago

European shares slide 1% to near two-month low on global growth worries

European shares slide 1% to near two-month low on global growth worries
  • European shares sank 1 percent to a near two-month low on Monday
  • The benchmark European stocks index has now fallen for three straight weeks on worries about slowing global growth

European shares sank 1 percent to a near two-month low on Monday, tracking Asian equities lower, as investors feared major central banks would start giving cues about tapering their pandemic-era stimulus programs at various meetings this week.


The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 1.4 percent in early trading, with energy and mining stocks leading declines on a slide in commodities prices.


The benchmark European stocks index has now fallen for three straight weeks on worries about slowing global growth and the spillover from tighter regulation of Chinese firms.


The U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting is in focus on Tuesday and Wednesday, where the central bank is expected to lay the groundwork for a tapering. On Thursday, the Bank of England holds its own policy meeting.


German shares slumped 1.6 percent as data showed a bigger-than-expected jump in producer prices last month.


In its biggest ever overhaul, the benchmark German index began trading on Monday with an increase in the number of constituents to 40 from 30.
 


Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge

Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 7 min 58 sec ago

Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge

Saudi remains China's top oil supplier as arrivals surge
  • Saudi oil arrivals surged 53 percent from a year earlier to 8.06 million tonnes
  • Shipments from the United Arab Emirates fell nearly 40 percent year-on-year

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, kept its ranking as China's top crude supplier for a ninth straight month in August as major producers relaxed production cuts.

Saudi oil arrivals surged 53 percent from a year earlier to 8.06 million tonnes, or 1.96 million barrels per day (bpd), data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday.

That compares with 1.58 million bpd in July and 1.24 million bpd in August last year.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, known as OPEC+, decided in July to ease production cuts and increase supply by a further 2 million bpd, adding 0.4 million bpd a month from August until December. In July, OPEC output increased by 640,000 bpd to 26.66 million bpd. read more

China's crude oil imports from Russia stood at 6.53 million tonnes in August, or 1.59 million bpd, flat versus 1.56 million bpd in July.

The big gap behind Saudi volumes was due to Beijing's decision to slash crude oil import quotas to its independent refiners, who favour Russia's ESPO blend.

Crude oil arrivals from Malaysia more than doubled from year-ago levels to 1.75 million tonnes, with traders saying refiners might have rebranded Venezuelan heavy oil previously passed on as bitumen blend into Malaysian crude after Beijing imposed hefty import taxes on blending fuels. read more

Meanwhile, shipments from the United Arab Emirates fell nearly 40 percent year-on-year, a possible sign demand for Iranian oil passed on as grades including UAE supplies remained lacklustre after peak arrivals early this year.

Official data has consistently recorded zero imports from Iran or Venezuela since the start of this year. 


Growth in ESG, Islamic investments support stronger asset inflows in the GCC: Moody’s

Growth in ESG, Islamic investments support stronger asset inflows in the GCC: Moody’s
Updated 29 min 49 sec ago

Growth in ESG, Islamic investments support stronger asset inflows in the GCC: Moody’s

Growth in ESG, Islamic investments support stronger asset inflows in the GCC: Moody’s
  • There will be a significant increase in demand for ESG-compliant investment products, around 38 percent of respondents said

DUBAI: The growing demand in Islamic and environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-compliant investments is expected to increase asset inflows over the next 12 months.

This is according to asset managers in Gulf countries, based on Moody’s 2021 survey of chief investment officers (CIOs) from eight leading fund firms.

“Half of CIO respondents expect double-digit growth in net inflows, and another 33% foresee a high single-digit increase,” Vanessa Robert, vice-president of senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service said.

“Improved investment results and stronger fees, already comparatively high in the GCC region, will further support revenue growth,” she added.

There will be a significant increase in demand for ESG-compliant investment products, around 38 percent of respondents said, while half of them expect sales of Islamic products will grow faster than sales of conventional investments in the next year.

The report also found around 50 percent of respondents said they were open to merger and acquisition activities within the next two years


France’s OVHCloud takes first step toward IPO and hopes to raise around $470m

France’s OVHCloud takes first step toward IPO and hopes to raise around $470m
Updated 20 September 2021

France’s OVHCloud takes first step toward IPO and hopes to raise around $470m

France’s OVHCloud takes first step toward IPO and hopes to raise around $470m
  • OVHCloud hopes the IPO will “accelerate its growth trajectory and consolidate its European leadership position while continuing to expand in North America and Asia”

PARIS: French cloud computing services provider OVHcloud said it was hoping to raise 400 million euros ($468.64 million) via the issuance of new shares as part of a planned initial public offering (IPO) on the Paris stock market.
OVHCloud hopes the IPO will “accelerate its growth trajectory and consolidate its European leadership position while continuing to expand in North America and Asia,” the company said, as it released its IPO registration document.
The family-owned company added on Monday that it was targeting a revenue growth of 10-15 percent for 2022 and an organic revenue growth rate in the mid-twenties by 2025.
These growth targets would be achieved while maintaining an adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) margin in line with the fiscal 2020 level.
No dividend payments were anticipated in the mid-term with cash-flows expected to be re-invested in line with the company’s accelerating growth trajectory, it added.
Following the IPO, the Klaba family will retain a substantial majority stake in OVHcloud.
The company had initially announced its IPO plans in March, two days before a major blaze destroyed one of its data centers in eastern France — a disaster that had raised concerns about its capacity to go public.
In June, OVHCloud re-committed to an IPO but provided no timetable.


Pakistan banks move to close gender gap

Pakistan banks move to close gender gap
Updated 20 September 2021

Pakistan banks move to close gender gap

Pakistan banks move to close gender gap
  • The policy titled “Banking on Equality: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion” identified five key pillars

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) launched a gender mainstreaming policy, which aims to reduce the gender gap in the financial industry and improve women’s access to financial services, a statement said.

The policy titled “Banking on Equality: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion” identified five key pillars, according to the statement issued on Friday.

It will aim at improving gender diversity in financial institutions and their access points; developing and marketing women centric products and services; creating women desks at bank branches for improved facilitation for women customers; cgathering gender-disaggregated data and target setting; and institutionalizing a policy forum on Gender at SBP.

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