The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) expects the country’s markets to witness changes resulting from the pandemic. The corporate restructuring process will be in the form of mergers, consolidations, or even exit of firms.
According to PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan, “it is during this period that the PCC must watch out through proper merger review for risks of concentration or rise of virtual monopolies to protect consumer welfare.” This is in line with his agency’s motto of “ensuring businesses compete and consumers benefit.”
He need not worry about the recent acquisition by listed firm AgriNurture, Inc. (ANI) of a 51% stake in Pay8, Inc., a fintech company specializing in payment solutions. There is no danger of a virtual monopoly arising from this transaction.
Pay8 is a subsidiary of unlisted HatchAsia Inc. and an affiliate of listed information technology company DFNN, Inc. The deal has been pegged at P377.9 million based on current valuation, subject to due diligence prior to the execution of a finalized share-swap agreement. ANI’s partnership with HatchAsia will introduce a financial platform that facilitates orders and payments. They anticipate the platform to reach farmers in the countryside’s unserved areas.
DFNN disclosed that the platform will have a major impact in the drive for financial inclusion of the agribusiness sector by enabling farmers, producers, distributors, and end-users to make cashless payments within its closed loop ecosystem. This platform should address the steady revenue decline in the neglected agricultural sector by providing much needed access to financial services.
Technology will play a big role in completing the envisioned agri-ecosystem where farmers can purchase farm supplies from accredited merchants. With ANI having the option to buy the produce, it aims to integrate buyers and other suppliers into this ecosystem.
Since Pay8 utilizes VSAT antennas, the unbanked masses can be connected to the banking grid even if they live in areas without wired internet services. Linking Pay8’s electronic wallet to ANI’s affiliated banks will allow farmers to access credit online and offline as well as to withdraw money from any ATM nationwide. These banks will also have access to DFNN’s digital core banking platforms and fintech software with secure identification, geo-fencing, and facial recognition capabilities.
Currently, Pay8 has existing contracts with Philippine Postal Corp. and provincial electric cooperatives to provide payment centers that are designed to function like neighborhood hubs in far-flung areas. With the infrastructure to manage high volume and secure financial transactions, its proprietary platform enables last mile connectivity to the banking network for the Philippines’ unbanked majority, estimated at 80% of the country’s 107 million population.
A partnership was forged last year between Pay8 and the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) involving a payment gateway that uses a portable point-of-sale system enabling mass online transactions for isolated communities. This allows hotels and resorts located at the CSEZFP to accept tourist payments via debit and credit cards.
Winsun Green Ventures, a unit of listed Greenergy Holdings, Inc., will also harness Pay8 in carrying out its plan to introduce alternative energy options such as solar products at the Makati central business district as well as in remote regions.
All these are part of ANI’s thrust to promote financial inclusion among Filipinos and contribute to the digital transformation of the local agrarian sector. Such initiatives are most welcome during the COVID-19 era when contactless transactions and public health concerns are of paramount importance.
J. Albert Gamboa is the CFO of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and Chairman of FINEX Publications.