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TENCENT HOLDINGS LIMITED

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Tencent : Argentina's cashless king targets Latin America's unbanked millions

05/07/2021 | 04:00pm EDT

BUENOS AIRES, May 7 (Reuters) - Digital banking startup Uala will double the size of its operations in Argentina and Mexico with a $64 million investment as it seeks to convince more people across Latin America to skip traditional banking in favor of digital, the head of the company said on Friday.

Pierpaolo Barbieri, the Argentine company's founder, told Reuters in a Zoom interview from his downtown Buenos Aires office that the investment would double Uala's 800-strong headcount and operating space.

Ultimately, he said there was potential for Uala to reach out to the unbanked in countries such as Peru, Paraguay, Colombia and Chile as well as eventually the United States and Europe.

"Latin America has a lot of potential to grow," said the Harvard-educated 33-year-old, who has become something of a household name in the fast-growing fintech industry as COVID-19 lockdowns prompt more people to switch to transactions online.

"I believe we're going to see more and more services being globalized. In Latin America we have great opportunities to serve North America, also Europe. We are in a very good time zone and we have excellent talent."

Barbieri's personal finance app was launched in October 2017 and won early backing from investors George Soros and Point72 Ventures LLC to offer prepaid debit cards, transfers, payments, and savings and lending services.

Uala first outlined an expansion plan last year after receiving millions in fresh funding from China's Tencent Holdings and SoftBank Group Corp, the Japanese technology investment giant.

As part of its plan, Uala last month started the process of acquiring rival Argentine digital bank Wilobank.

Barbieri said his firm's biggest selling point in encouraging future customers was the fact that its costs are almost 80% lower.

"More than 70% of Mexicans never had access to a payment method other than cash, 50% of Argentines, 60% of Peruvians, 80% of Paraguayans, 50% of Colombians and 30% of Chileans," Barbieri said.

The company is not currently looking for new investors since it has grown "much higher than expected," he added. (Reporting by Agustin Geist, writing by Nicolas Misculin and Aislinn Laing)


© Reuters 2021
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
SOFTBANK GROUP CORP. 0.70% 8056 End-of-day quote.-0.02%
TENCENT HOLDINGS LIMITED -0.75% 596 End-of-day quote.5.67%
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Financials
Sales 2021 591 B 92 382 M 92 382 M
Net income 2021 150 B 23 387 M 23 387 M
Net cash 2021 116 B 18 154 M 18 154 M
P/E ratio 2021 31,9x
Yield 2021 0,33%
Capitalization 4 674 B 730 B 731 B
EV / Sales 2021 7,71x
EV / Sales 2022 6,37x
Nbr of Employees 89 228
Free-Float 62,4%
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Number of Analysts 53
Average target price 626,09 CNY
Last Close Price 491,24 CNY
Spread / Highest target 58,4%
Spread / Average Target 27,5%
Spread / Lowest Target -14,9%
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NameTitle
Hua Teng Ma Executive Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Chi Ping Lau President & Executive Director
Shek Hon Lo Chief Financial Officer & Senior Vice President
Chen Ye Xu Chief Information Officer
Yu Xin Ren COO & President-Interactive Entertainment Group
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