By Fanny Potkin
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Facebook Inc is preparing to apply for regulatory approval in Indonesia to launch mobile payments in partnership with three local digital fintech firms, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The plan, if approved, could be among the first such services under the unified payment service Facebook Pay it, which the social media platform unveiled in November. It allows users across its various platforms including WhatsApp and Instagram to make payments without exiting the app.
The move comes amid early partnership talks between the social network and ride-hailing and payments firm Gojek.
Four sources said Facebook wants to capitalize on the Indonesian market and is preparing for regulatory approval in the country.
The three e-wallet operators are Indonesian ride hailing firm Gojek’s GoPay, fintech startup OVO, which is backed by Singapore-based riding hailing firm Grab, and state-backed LinkAja,the people said.
Bank Indonesia assistant governor Filianingsih Hendarta, who heads Payment system policy, told Reuters local firms had approached the regulator to ask about tentative approval for a payments partnership with Facebook.
“So far no one submitted the formal application. Some of them just came to discuss during the consultative meeting with BI (Bank Indonesia),” Hendarta said.
Reuters reported in August that Facebook’s WhatsApp had been in talks with these firms to launch digital payment services in Indonesia.
A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company was seeking to bring digital payments to more countries and believed “digital payments will… open up extraordinary opportunities for businesses to grow.”
“We are in conversations with partners in Indonesia, however the discussions are ongoing and we do not have anything further to share at this stage,” she added.
OVO CEO Jason Thompson said: “As an open ecosystem platform, we’re always seeking new partnerships to increase cashless transactions… including with Facebook.”
Gojek declined to comment. LinkAja was not immediately available for comment.
Facebook is keen to accelerate its expansion in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, home to 260 million people and the region’s largest economy, is one of the largest markets globally for Facebook and WhatsApp, with over 100 million users.
Facebook is also in separate talks to partner with Gojek, which counts Alphabet’s Google and Chinese e-commerce JD.com among its backers, two sources said.
“The talks could lead either to a strategic partnership, a collaboration, or an investment,” one person with knowledge of the matter said.
The talks, which predate the coronavirus outbreak, are at an early stage.
Elsewhere in Asia, Facebook has held talks to buy a multi billion dollar stake in Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd’s telecom unit, media reports said.
Gojek declined to comment. Facebook referred Reuters to its general statement.
Having evolved from a ride-hailing service founded in 2010 to a one-stop app offering online payments, food ordering and even massage services, Gojek is valued at $10 billion.
(Reporting by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Miyoung, Kim Coghill and David Gregorio)