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Uber’s Asian outpost wins Singaporean banking licence

Grab grabs a license and so did China’s Ant Group

Uber is poised to become the owner of a decent chunk of a new bank in Singapore.

The island state on Friday awarded licences to operate digital banks and one went to a consortium comprising Grab and local telco giant Singtel.

Grab is Asia’s ride-sharing leader and was so well entrenched that in 2018 Uber's CEO declared that competing with it could mean fighting “too many battles across too many fronts and with too many competitors.”

As Princess-Bride-watching Reg readers will know, fighting a land war in Asia is folly. Uber therefore combined its Asian operations with Grab and walked away with a 27.5 percent share of the Singapore company.

Now Grab is set to become a bank, as the licence it has won permits it to offer deposit accounts, financial advice, and insurance to individuals.

“An entity wholly owned by Ant Group Co. Ltd” was awarded a licence to operate a “digital wholesale bank” that can offer business banking services plus retail banking in currencies other than the Singapore Dollar.

Ant, Grab, and the two other licence-winners still have a long way to go before they can open their virtual doors: Singapore still wants to see evidence they can comply with “relevant prudential requirements and licensing pre-conditions”. The nation’s Monetary Authority anticipates that process should conclude in time for the new banks to operate “from early 2022”.

Which leaves The Register contemplating an app that lets consumers hail a ride, consider an offer of insurance, plus advice on how to arrange one’s finances based on a history of Grab rides and phone usage patterns.

What a time to be alive, especially as Grab has already expanded into payments and grocery delivery. ®

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