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Singapore family extends Africa noodle empire into digital banks

Bloomberg
Bloomberg2/10/2020 09:07 AM GMT+08  • 3 min read
Singapore family extends Africa noodle empire into digital banks
Kunal Adnani, who also leads Tolaram’s mergers and acquisitions team, is helping coordinate the push. The ex-Barclays Plc executive said the inspiration for becoming a digital bank came from an unlikely source -- the group’s paper-mill operations in tech-
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SINGAPORE (Feb 10): Singapore’s family-run Tolaram Group made much of its US$1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) fortune in cereals, noodles and infrastructure in Africa. Now, it’s planning to use its global reach and local relationships to move into digital banking there.

The group has a blueprint of sorts from another business it owns -- PT Bank Amar Indonesia. Bank Amar is largely a digital institution, with loans and deposits for consumers handled over mobile phones. The publicly listed group has loaned almost US$300 million to around 300,000 customers and expects advances to increase more than 50% this year.

Africa shares some of the same characteristics. Non-traditional players without the legacy costs of established lenders are setting up digital banks to serve millions of smartphone-savvy customers. In 2018, the World Bank estimated as many as 95 million unbanked adults in Sub-Saharan Africa received cash payments for agricultural products, and about 65 million saved money using semi-formal methods.

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