SK Group—controlled by South Korean billionaire Chey Tae-won—has agreed to invest $100 million in Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia Group’s fintech unit BigPay.
The fresh funding from one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates and tech innovator will support AirAsia’s digital initiatives as it accelerates expansion across Southeast Asia and into businesses such as logistics and financial services, BigPay said in a statement on Friday.
“SK Group is second to none when it comes to innovation and experience, so we truly believe they can share their expertise and know-how so that this investment can mark the beginning of a new exciting digital banking era,” AirAsia Group CEO and cofounder Tony Fernandes said in a statement.
SK Group—one of the largest chaebols, or family-run conglomerates in South Korea—has interests across biotech, chemicals, energy, semiconductors and telecommunications. Its chairman Chey had a net worth of $3.4 billion and was ranked No. 14 on the list of Korea’s 50 Richest people when it was published in June.
“We’ve had a keen interest in fintech and digital banking for a long time,” Jung Kyu Kim, the chief representative of SK Group in Malaysia, said in a statement. “SK Group will be able to make a significant contribution to BigPay in both technical and consumer service aspects given our experience and resources.”
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BigPay—which aims to expand services beyond international remittance and digital payments—is seeking one of five digital banking licenses Malaysia is making available. The country’s central bank is expected to award the licenses next year.
BigPay, which provides its services to customers in Malaysia and Singapore, plans to expand next into Thailand following AirAsia’s acquisition of Indonesian ride-hailing giant Gojek’s operations in the country last month.
AirAsia has been building its digital businesses as the airline grapples with the lingering impact of the pandemic-induced slump in the global travel industry. Besides fintech, AirAsia has ventured into e-commerce, logistics and plans to develop a super app anchored on travel and leisure.