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Sea Limited Awarded Digital Bank License in Singapore

By Eric Volkman - Dec 6, 2020 at 7:03AM

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It is the first permit of its kind granted by the Asian city-state.

From online games to banking -- the journey of Singaporean company Sea Limited ( SE -4.12% ) in its relatively brief life has been an unusual one, and an interesting new chapter was just opened. On Friday, the company announced it has been granted a license to operate a full-service digital bank there by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The license is the first of its kind awarded in the Asian city-state.

Sea was founded as an online games portal in 2009. The following decade, it grew out its e-commerce and financial services operations into two brands, Shopee and AirPay. It has had a strong regional presence in Southeast Asia for years, in such markets as Vietnam and the Philippines, and has also pushed further abroad into India and Latin America. 

Woman seated on a park bench using a smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

In its press release heralding its new license, Sea wrote that with Shopee and AirPay, plus digital entertainment business Garena, it "is already deeply integrated into Singapore's digital economy with young consumers" and small and midsize enterprises. 

The company added that its bank will "draw on insights about the needs of these users from across Sea's digital ecosystem to innovate processes, products, and services."

The dive into digital banking is a logical extension of Sea's operations and could easily widen both its brand and its revenue base, so it's almost inarguably a positive development. In the press release, however, the company did not provide any estimates as to how the bank might impact its business, nor did it specify the date it will commence operation. 

While the company is not yet active on our shores, its American depositary receipts are listed on the New York Stock Exchange following the company's U.S. initial public offering (IPO) in 2017

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