Sea Ltd. and national oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd. are among companies planning to bid for a digital banking license in Malaysia, according to people familiar with the matter, as the country prepares to open up its financial industry.

Local conglomerates Genting Bhd. and YTL Corp., and the government of Sarawak state on Borneo island are also considering a bid, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Some of the firms such as Sea and YTL have joined forces and plan to bid as a consortium, they said. They join ride-hailing and payments firm Grab Holdings Inc., Sunway Bhd. and others who have also expressed interest.

Malaysia’s plan to issue as many as five digital banking licenses has unleashed a flurry of activity among tech firms, banks and others seeking to gain a foothold in financial services.

Final bids are due by June 30 and Malaysia’s central bank is expected to decide on the winners by the end of 2022.

Malaysia joins Hong Kong and Singapore in opening up its banking sector to non-financial players to keep up with a shift toward technology, non-cash transactions and online lending.

The ongoing pandemic is also accelerating the need for digital transactions with traditional banks such as HSBC Holdings Plc planning to close some of its branches in Malaysia as part of its strategy to go digital.

Representatives at Sea, Grab and Sarawak state government declined to comment, while YTL and Genting didn’t respond to requests seeking comment. Petronas is looking to focus on digital Islamic banking with a financial-institution partner, the people said.

The firm’s representatives didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. – (Bloomberg)


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