5 Fintech Investments Made By Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasionalby Johanan Devanesan June 16, 2023 0 comments
The recent blockbuster funding for insurance fintech firm PolicyStreet raised RM67 million (US$15.3 million), in a Series B fundraising round that was led by Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional.
It is among the largest capital injections for an insurtech firm in Malaysia, and is indicative of the growing interest from Khazanah in the country’s blossoming fintech scene. The government-linked investment company was initially established in 1993 to manage and maximise the return on government assets and equities.
A multi-stage institutional investor in Malaysia which counts key portfolio companies – including telecommunications provider Telekom Malaysia Berhad, financial group CIMB Holdings Berhad, airline Malaysia Aviation Group Berhad, and utilities provider Tenaga Nasional Berhad – under its belt, in 2004 Khazanah expanded and took a more active investment approach, “which includes enhancing the performance of its existing core holdings while seeking opportunities in new economic sectors and geographies”.
One of the new economic sectors that Khazanah Nasional has been investing in is fintech, notably pouring funds into a pre-IPO Alibaba Group and famously declining to invest in an early-stage Grab Holdings Inc, which went on to become the biggest listing in the US by a Southeast Asian company.
Khazanah defended this decision, telling CNBC the fund’s investment strategy was to focus on large investments and not on direct startup deals. While this is true, as the country’s sovereign wealth fund it also has interests to invest in companies under its broader strategy of ‘Advancing Malaysia’, with investments that “deliver sustainable value for Malaysians”.
It also launched the US$40mil Future Malaysia Programme earlier this year, aiming to boost innovation and economic growth for the country’s startup ecosystem via collaborations between entrepreneurs, venture capital, and corporate venture programmes. According to its website, Khazanah Nasional invests in fintech because it believes that it can help improve financial inclusion, efficiency, and innovation in Malaysia and the region.
Much like other sovereign wealth funds, Khazanah does not publicly disclose many of its investment activities in fintech companies. But some of the more notable fintech-affiliated investments that Khazanah Nasional has made in the recent past are:
PolicyStreet’s US$15.3 million Series B round was raised under the Dana Impak mandate, marking the first known fintech investment with this fund. Under Dana Impak, Khazanah manages an allocation of RM6 billion over five years to foster economic resilience and innovation competitiveness among Malaysian businesses. PolicyStreet previously raised US$5.93 million in its Series A round.
The full-stack insurtech says it intends to use the raised funds to strengthen its technology and underwriting capabilities. Dave Ng, general partner of lead investor Altara Ventures, added that PolicyStreet has grown their business fivefold in 2022, reaching a sum insured of US$6 billion and serving over 5 million customers.
Bolttech is an embedded insurance platform that is another recent recipient of funding from Khazanah when the sovereign wealth fund joined fellow new investors MetLife Next Gen Ventures to raise US$196 million in Series B funding on May 17, 2023.
Singapore-headquartered Bolttech previously secured US$180 million in a deal including US-based Activant Capital. This latest financing round was led by Japanese insurance firm Tokio Marine Asia Pte Ltd., bringing the digital insurer’s valuation to US$1.6 billion. With total funding in excess of US$443 million, Bolttech is the most well-funded insurtech in the Southeast Asian region.
In 2016 Khazanah invested in WeLab, one of the largest mobile lending and credit analytics platforms in China, in a US$160 million Series B fundraising round. The WeLab funding was a strategic move to gain a presence in mainland China and Hong Kong, where the company operates digital bank WeLab Bank.
WeLab has raised over US$600 million in strategic financing from some of the world’s foremost investors in fintech, which besides Khazanah includes China Construction Bank International, the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, Sequoia Capital, and Allianz X, the digital investment unit of one of the world’s largest insurers and asset managers, Allianz Group.
With a 36.73% stake, Khazanah is the largest shareholder of Axiata Group Berhad, the digital conglomerate behind Boost, it’s regional full spectrum fintech arm. According to Axiata’s integrated annual report 2022, Boost is one of the Group’s two digital businesses alongside data and AI analytics firm ADA, and both “leverage intelligence, innovation and data to drive digital financial services and digital marketing and analytics”, according to the 2021 annual report.
Since consolidating its strategic and commercial investment portfolios in 2021, Khazanah can be seen as a direct contributor to the Group’s digital interests. When the national fund was appointed by the Ministry of Finance to oversee the distribution of cash to Malaysians during the pandemic, Khazanah announced that Boost along with fellow payment fintech operators Touch ‘n Go eWallet and GrabPay had been selected as the e-wallets to digitally dispense the RM450 million in funds.
Ant Group is the Chinese fintech spinoff of Alibaba that operates Alipay and other financial services platforms. In 2018, the fast-growing fintech giant raised US$10.3 billion from investors outside mainland China, including Khazanah and the sovereign-wealth fund of Singapore, Temasek Holdings Private Ltd, investing at least US$500 million each.
The Series C funding raised US$14 billion in total, and Khazanah Nasional along with the other investors stood to gain lucrative returns if Ant’s planned IPO had gone ahead at the time. Unfortunately, the Chinese government investigated the public listing and caused it to be called off – Khazanah subsequently divested a portion of its stake worth RM2.2 billion in 2019.