Malaysia’s financial service firm AEON Credit Service (M) Berhad has partnered Japan-listed financial institution Aeon Financial Service Co. Ltd. (AFS) to undertake the business of a digital Islamic bank in Malaysia.

AEON Credit said in a bourse filing last Friday that the firm has entered into a shareholders’ agreement with AFS to regulate the rights and obligations of the parties in respect of ACS Digital Berhad (ACSD), which is preparing to be licensed as a digital Islamic bank to carry on digital Islamic banking.

The business and operations of ACSD are to commence within 24 months from April 8, 2022.

The total investment outlay and eventual share capital for the ACSD is estimated to be MYR 550 million ($121 million) during the foundational phase of up to five years from commencement of the digital Islamic digital banking business.

AEON Credit and AFS will each contribute MYR 175 million ($38 million) to subscribe 175 million ordinary shares at MYR 1 ($0.22) in ACSD. Upon completion of the subscription, ACSD will be an associated company of AEON Credit.

Upon compliance with the equity condition, the eventual equity structure in ACSD would be AEON Credit (35 percent), AFS (35 percent) and the Malaysian shareholder(s) (30 percent).

The proposed joint venture will be fully funded by the AEON Credit’s internally generated funds and is anticipated to contribute positively towards the earnings of the company in future over the long term after the launch of the digital Islamic banking business.

AEON Credit said in a statement that the proposed joint venture signifies a timely opportunity for the firm to reach a wider pool of customers through ACSD’s digital Islamic banking business by deploy combined expertise of all parties in providing financial services and solutions to customers, especially from the underserved and unserved market segments, adding dynamism to the banking landscape and contributing to the financial inclusion agenda in Malaysia.

“We are directing our energies to the creation of a thriving AEON Living Zone, our ecosystem that provides seamless and onestop solution by embedding multiple services & products including retails, financing, banking, insurance and entertainments,” said Daisuke Maeda, Managing Director of AEON Credit.

According to him, the integration of the firm’s digital Islamic banking business onto the AEON Living Zone will enable the firm to meet customer lifecycle needs and expand its membership base for cross-selling activities which will drive transaction volume and market share for all of its businesses.

“Further, in line with our corporate philosophy to embrace financial inclusion for all the customer segments and to support Sustainable Development Goal 10 which aims at reducing inequality, digital banks would be better positioned than traditional channels to serve financially underserved segments such as gig economy workers or rural residents, who may lack of credit history to have the equal opportunities to receive loans or, to gain access to a wider variety of financial services,” he added.

ACSD also intends to leverage on AEON CO., LTD., Japan and its subsidiaries retail network in Malaysia to elevate the banking experience of target segments by offering a broader range of financial services and products of AEON Credit.

As of today, AEON Credit and AEON in the retail sector have a total customer base of more than 5.3 million.

Thus, the digital banking business to be established by ACSD aims to serve the underserved market segments leveraging on AEON Credit’s vast experience, retail network and customer base at the beginning, to help customers take better control of their personal financial management and financial outcomes.

AEON Credit also expects that ACSD would be able to develop a sustainable business model and achieve profitability in operations before the end of the foundational phase.

Earlier on June 30, 2021, Aeon Credit and AFS had submitted a joint application to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) for a digital banking license.

Subsequently, MoneyLion Inc. (MoneyLion) was included in the consortium and the joint application was revised for a digital Islamic banking license.

On April 29, 2022, the companies had received a letter from BNM on the approval by the Minister of Finance, Malaysia (MOF) of the grant of a digital Islamic banking licence to the consortium, comprising AEON Credit, AFS and MoneyLion.

On September 30, 2022, the parties and MoneyLion reached an agreement to cease negotiations on MoneyLion’s participation in the proposed joint venture.

Consequently, the parties as the remaining joint venture partners continued with the implementation of the operational readiness plan to establish the digital Islamic bank.

AEON Credit and its subsidiary are principally involved in the provision of easy payment schemes, personal financing schemes, issuance of payment cards under the international brand names of Visa and MasterCard and insurance broking business. Its personal financing schemes and certain easy payment schemes are based on Islamic principles.

AFS is principally involved in the activities of credit card issuance, banking, leasing, life insurance, distribution of insurance products and other financial services, with operations in Japan and several other countries in Asia.

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