Earlier this month, Go-Jek, the largest ride-hailing company in Indonesia, acquired Southeast Asia’s largest crypto exchange Coins.ph for an undisclosed amount.
According to a TechCrunch report, the company was sold for around $72 million but other sources have claimed that the deal was valued at $92 million.
What is Coins.ph and How Did it Become Such a Dominant Force in Southeast Asia?
Coins.ph, which had more than five million users as of May 2018, is the most widely utilized platform in the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia for cryptocurrency trading and remittance services.
The company first penetrated into the Philippines market in 2014 when LocalBitcoins and BuyBitcoin.ph were the only two Bitcoin liquidity providers in the country.
Due to the popularity of local remittance services such as Lhuillier and Palawan over banks and in acknowledgment of the fact that a large portion of individuals in the Philippines have limited access to banking services, Coins.ph prioritized partnerships with local remittance outlets and payment service providers.
Year after year, Coins.ph landed partnerships with banks, remittance outlets, convenience stores, and telecommunications companies, allowing cryptocurrency users to pay utility, credit card, and phone bills using crypto while purchasing and selling digital assets like Bitcoin through convenience stores and remittance outlets.
At one point, the app became one of the top ten best performing mobile applications in all of the Philippines, ranking with other widely utilized applications such as Facebook and Instagram.
The prioritization of payment channels that the majority of individuals in the Philippines have easy access played a vital role in the company’s long-term success. The company eased the process of buying or selling Bitcoin and made it as easy as going to the nearest 7-Eleven store or remittance outlet, which appealed to local users.
In the Philippines, micro-financing companies and remittance outlets dominate the finance sector. Most individuals rely on remittance outlets to send money throughout the country. While banks require a minimum balance of up to $2,000, with local remittance outlets, individuals can send and receive money with low fees without restrictions.
Since early 2017, Coins.ph continued to lead partnerships with remittance service providers to ensure that millions of individuals in the Philippines can settle transactions without boundaries.
In July 2018, following its partnership with Palawan, the Coins.ph team said:
“We’ve formed a new partnership with Palawan Pawnshop, operator of Palawan Pawnshop and Palawan Express Pera Padala, one of the Philippine’s top pawnshop and domestic remittance chains. Through this partnership, you can now visit over 2,500 Palawan Pawnshop branches nationwide to instantly cash in and add funds to your mobile wallet, via Palawan Express Pera Padala.”
Following its success in the Philippines, with the same approach of providing easy access to cryptocurrencies, Coins.ph expanded to Malaysia and Thailand as Coins.my and Coins.th.
In an exclusive interview with CryptoMeNow, Colin Goltra, an executive at Coins.ph, said that the company saw overwhelming demand in both regions and is expected to integrate additional cryptocurrencies in Thailand.
Goltra told CryptoMeNow:
“So, last May we announced that we had already passed 5 million total customers, and we’ve continued to grow at a healthy rate since then. We’ve actually had an operation in Thailand for a few years already, so far it’s primarily served as a crypto-fiat onramp for BTC, but we hope to launch additional currencies on that platform in the near future.”
Why Did Go-Jek Acquire Coins.ph?
The crypto sector is still in a bear market with the combined valuation of crypto assets down by more than 85 percent since January 2018 from $800 billion to $119 billion.
$72 to $92 million, even for a dominant company like Coins.ph, is a significantly large valuation in consideration of current market conditions. As seen in the initiative of billionaire Mike Novogratz to raise $250 million to help finance struggling cryptocurrency companies, the past year has been difficult even for the largest companies in the space.
Hence, the high profile acquisition of Coins.ph by Go-Jek demonstrates a high level of confidence in both the growth of Coins.ph and the long-term outlook of the cryptocurrency market in the Philippines.
Go-Jek is set to expand into the Philippines in the short-term and the local ride-hailing market is primarily controlled by Grab, a Singapore-based ride-sharing giant.
Nadiem Makarim, the CEO of Go-Jek, said in an interview that its acquisition of Coins.ph is a part of the company’s bigger initiative to be involved in the country’s digital payments transformation.
Both Grab and Go-Jek enable users to top-up their balances on the app, which allows users to call for rides without cash. The large active user base of Coins.ph and the increasing demand for cryptocurrencies in the region could lead to the integration of cryptocurrencies into the Go-Jek platform in the foreseeable future.
While the Go-Jek team did not disclose any plan to implement crypto assets, CEO Nadiem Makarim emphasized that its mission is to utilize technology to improve everyday lives, which includes digital payments.
“With the second largest population and a strong domestic economy, the Philippines is one of the most exciting markets in Southeast Asia and through this partnership with Coins.ph, we are humbled to take part in the country’s digital payments transformation. Today’s announcement marks the start of our long-term commitment to the Philippines and a continuation of our mission to use technology to improve everyday lives and create a positive social impact,” Makarin said.
Speaking to CryptoMeNow, Coins.ph CEO Ron Hose, who will continue to oversee operations at the company following the acquisition, explained that both companies will cooperate to accelerate their shared vision to increase financial inclusion.
In regions like the Philippines wherein the vast majority of individuals depend on alternatives to banking services to send and receive payments, cryptocurrency and digital payment services are crucial in providing millions of people access to financial services.
Ron Hose stated:
“Coins.ph has always focused on empowering customers by giving them lower-cost, more convenient access to a range of financial services that customers use on a daily basis. Coins and Go-Jek are both customer-centric organizations with the same regional focus and ambitions; together we can accelerate our mission of increasing financial inclusion.”
Will Go-Jek Integrate Cryptocurrencies?
The Coins.ph acquisition is a sensible deal for Go-Jek if it plans to integrate digital assets. Large-scale conglomerates in regions like Japan and South Korea have acquired cryptocurrency exchanges in the past to integrate digital assets into their existing infrastructures.
Earlier this week, as reported by CryptoMeNow, Japan’s largest e-commerce platform Rakuten created a new subsidiary called Rakuten Payment, comprised of Everybody’s Bitcoin and Rakuten Edy. Rakuten acquired Everybody’s Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency exchange, in August 2018 with the intent of integrating cryptocurrencies into its e-commerce platform.
If Go-Jek works with Coins.ph to enable cryptocurrency payments, it may provide an edge over Grab in the digital payments area, its main competitor, which consumed Uber’s Southeast Asia business late last year to gain a 100 percent control over the country’s ride-hailing sector.
Coins.ph Acquisition Demonstrated Strength in the Cryptocurrency Sector of the Philippines
The daily volume of exchanges in Southeast Asia remains substantially lower than other major regions in the likes of the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Europe.
But, in terms of mainstream awareness, the number of active users, and market penetration, Southeast Asia is arguably one of the strongest cryptocurrency markets in the world.
Users are actively utilizing cryptocurrencies as an alternative form of money, transferring value from one place to the other, processing utility bills, and buying products on e-commerce platforms with digital assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Acquisitions such as the Coins.ph and Go-Jek deal could strengthen the infrastructure of the local cryptocurrency exchange market in the Philippines and Southeast Asia in general as conglomerates with financial and resourceful flexibility enter the market.
Photo by Bash Carlos on Unsplash