UOB's private equity arm co-leads $42m investment in Thai fintech

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - UOB Venture Management, the private equity unit of UOB, has co-led a US$31.2 million (S$42.2 million) Series A funding round for Bangkok-based fintech start-up Lightnet.

The largest investors in the round were UOB Venture Management, Hanwha Investment and Securities, and Seven Bank. Other investors included Singapore-based Hopeshine Ventures, Signum Capital and Du Capital. Uni-President Asset Holdings and HashKey Capital rounded off the list of investors.

Lightnet was co-founded by Chatchaval Jiaravanon, whose family runs the Charoen Pokphand Group, one of Thailand's largest companies; and former investment banker Tridbodi Arunanondchai.

Investor Seven Bank owns all 7-Eleven stores in Japan and about 69,200 convenience stores globally, said Lightnet.

Fellow investor Uni-President Asset Holdings is the investment arm of Uni-President Enterprises Corp, which owns over 9,000 7-Eleven and Starbucks across Taiwan, China and the Philippines.

The start-up provides remittance services by leveraging blockchain and connecting existing financial systems with its network of cash agents, which refers to places that can dispense cash, such as convenience stores. It aims to replace underground banking and the Swift system used by banks, and will first target unbanked migrant workers in South-east Asia as its customers.

Proceeds from the fundraising will be used to increase Lightnet's investment in the underlying blockchain technology on Stellar Network - the fintech's blockchain partner, and to build a financial mobility network.

Lightnet's main platform has been completed and the first transaction is slated for the first quarter of 2020, said its chief executive officer Suvicha Sudchai.

It will integrate payment and remittance partners - such as MoneyGram, Seven Bank, Yeahka and Ksher - from Japan, South Korea and several South-east Asian countries "to ensure a successful activation" of its ecosystem, Mr Sudchai added.