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Thailand’s robust mobile payment landscape has given rise to convenient payment methods that range from mobile payments via one of Thailand’s leading mobile networks, AIS’s mPay to top-up kiosks scattered around public transport platforms and 7-Eleven.

Despite the wide range of attractive post-paid plans offered by mobile network companies, a large fraction of Thais still prefer to use pre-paid plans by regularly “topping” up their mobile credit because of it’s flexibility for those with small budgets.

Companies running the kiosks are also capitalizing on their popularity by offering other services in hopes of maturing the users’ digital habit. Long-standing kiosks such as Boonterm provides a money transfer service and even vending machines that dispenses drinks.

With Thailand’s top-up kiosk market worth approximately $1.9 billion, it’s no surprise more payment options are popping up but who are the country’s main players? And what’s True Money’s role in all of this? eIQ explores Thailand’s mobile top-up landscape.

Boonterm

Boonterm operates under “Forth Smart Service” plc. and offers a pre-paid mobile top-up service to Thai consumers nationwide and owns 45% market share. It also offers online money transfers under the brand “F-Smart”, the user simply inserts cash or coins. F-Smart can also facilitate real time verification of payment and displays past transactions.

The company’s 90,000 kiosks kiosks are available nationwide at convenient locations such as 7-Eleven, Tesco Lotus, Family Mart, Big C, Jiffy Gas Station and Bangkok’s public transportation systems (BTS/MRT).

 

AJ Termsabuy

AJ Termsabuy initially offered a pre-paid mobile top-up service as its main ventricle but has since offered other features such as online mobile games top-up (via True Money), mobile phone bill, insurance and credit card payments.

The company’s key advantage is demographic reach because its 3,7000 kiosks kiosks are installed with five languages: Thai, Burmese, English, Cambodian and Bahasa Melayu.

 

Singer

Singer Thailand plc. is a distributor for electronic products from fridges to sewing machines. The company also owns 20,000 mobile top-up kiosks across Thailand. Jaymart, one of Thailand’s biggest mobile distributors, bought 25% of Singer in 2015 for $30 million. The plan was to combine Singer’s 200 distribution outlets nationwide with Jaymart’s 250 distribution channels to own more of its value chain. Singer’s key target is customers upcountry unlike the other two mentioned.

 

True

Thailand’s largest communications conglomerate that owns TrueVisions, TrueMobile and TrueMoney (the latter now tied with Alibaba’s Alipay), True, announced the launch of 40,000 “TrueMoney” kiosks that will allow True users to top-up their mobile accounts and pay online game credit.

Last year, TrueMoney introduced TrueMoney Transfer, an offline remittance service that allows Burmese workers in Thailand to transfer money to families in Burma safely. Prior to this, most workers would ask friends travelling back to Burma to deliver the money in person but there is no guarantee that the money will ever reach the intended receiver.

TrueMoney Transfer has 681 physical counters, or transfer spots, in Myanmar, where family members across the country can pick-up money sent from Thailand with a secure 8-digit code. Workers in Thailand simply visit any of the 250 transfer spots in Thailand, Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakarn, Tak, Ranong, Kanchanaburi, and Phuket, to complete a real-time transaction.

Currently, this service is available through only TrueMoney Transfer service points and the TrueMoney mobile app.

 

True’s move: Another step towards monopolization?

It gets more interesting when we take into account that True owns 9,000 7-Eleven branches nationwide. A True spokesperson declared that for phase I of “TrueMoney Kiosk”, the company will only be placing a handful of kiosks at 7-Eleven and coffee shops to test out the public’s reception to its mobile top-up service.

However, the power of a wide offline footprint and its convenience factor makes it hardly surprising if TrueMoney kiosks did end up at all of the 7-Eleven branches and effectively squeeze out Boonterm from its usual turf. Last year, 7-Eleven made headlines when it discontinued its partnership with AIS, which meant that 1-2-call mobile top-up cards could no longer be purchased from any of the convenience stores across Thailand.

As True has not yet begun introducing phase I, smaller “top up” players have time to push more aggressive marketing initiatives, one that typically begins with education or others will simply have to adapt or die.

 

Here’s what you should know before  you head out for the weekend.

 

1. Alibaba’s logistics ally, ZTO rides China’s ecommerce boom

 ZTO’s IPO Thursday raised $1.4 billion for the Shanghai-based firm, which is now worth about $12 billion. The company expect the express delivery market to consolidate further, and smaller players will start to be wiped out due to a lack of economies of scale and operational efficiency.
Read the rest of the story here.  

2. 7-Eleven no longer selling AIS services

The convenience store giant has stopped offering all services nationwide related to the mobile phone operator. This suggests that as distributors get greedy due to position of power, more brands will see the benefit of owning their own online sites and become the go-to for their customers.

Read the rest of the story here

3.  Emmi milk plans Asian expansion through Amazon

In Hong Kong, Emmi is already the third strongest yoghurt brand. In Singapore, Riedener sells Emmi products in many four- and five-star hotels and Singapore Airlines in Business Class as well as in expat shops in China.

 

Read the rest of the story here

SingTel has reportedly restarted discussions to buy a portion of Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd’s $2.4 billion stake in Intouch Holdings PCL, one of Thailand’s largest telecommunications companies, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The parties see an opportunity to strike a deal now given recent evidence of increased political and economic stability in Thailand, a private source said.

Thailand is an attractive growth market for telecommunications companies. The country is experiencing increased mobile usage as incomes rise and the economy grows at a steady clip. Mobile phone and data subscribers are expected to increase to more than 88 million this year.

Singapore’s Temasek, which owns 51% of Singtel, held similar discussions with the city-state’s biggest phone company in 2014, though political tensions in Thailand at that time scuttled deal prospects, people with knowledge of the matter said previously.

Singtel’s investment history

SingTel is Southeast Asia’s largest telecom firm and the biggest company in Singapore by market capitalization. The company has chased growth across the globe to expand beyond its saturated local market.

SingTel already holds a 23.3% stake in Intouch Holdings PCL. If the stake purchase goes through, it would further boost SingTel’s presence in Thailand with access to the country’s largest mobile operator, AIS, where InTouch owns a 40.6% stake.

In 2012, SingTel bought Amobee, a digital advertising firm for $321 million. The company also owns substantial stakes in several telecom firms across Asia, which includes India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Telkomsel in Indonesia.

Intouch, which trades on the Thai stock exchange, currently has a market capitalization of $5.9 billion. Sources have warned that the discussions haven’t been completed and could still fall apart or change.

SingTel has not confirmed this story. However, news of the renewed discussions have been picked up by outlets such as Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Thai news outlets.

A version of this appeared in The Wall Street Journal on August 16. Read the full version here.

One of Thailand’s biggest telecom companies, Dtac, has reported a record 90% slump in net profit for the second quarter of the year, reports Retail News Asia.

Net profit for the quarter fell to $4 million (141 million baht). The company’s total subscriber base shrank by 524,000 to 25 million, with prepaid subscribers falling by 715,000.

However, postpaid net additions increased by 77%.

In its quarterly report, Dtac blamed the weak performance on competitors’ aggressive subscriber acquisition activities, especially through strong distribution channels.

In response to the decline, Dtac has re-introduced prepaid handset subsidies and launched new Dtac prepaid branded SIMs, targeting data-orientated users.

Dtac’s 4G user base meanwhile increased from 2.9 million in Q1 to 3.5 million in Q2, and the operator aims to grow this to 6 million by the end of the year.

Dtac warned it expects intense market competition to continue into the second half. As a result, the company expects service revenues to slightly decline from the previous year.

A version of this appeared in Retail News Asia on July 14. Read the full version here.

Sigve Brekke, Head of Asian Operations at Telenor Group with DTAC CEO Lars Norling Source: Telenor.com

Sigve Brekke, Head of Asian Operations at Telenor Group with Dtac CEO Lars Norling, Source: Telenor.com

Thailand’s most popular mobile carriers, Dtac and AIS are pushing new data driven initiatives as data has surpassed traditional voice services as their key revenue mainstay. As Southeast Asia becomes more inherently focused on using internet on mobile, demands for data bundle deals will surge.

“Today we are experiencing a big, important shift from voice to data and digital,” CEO of Dtac Lars Norling told the press conference

The shift from voice to data and digital means mobile carriers shifting marketing strategies as heavy data users will be loyal to companies that provide them with the best deals. This explains why Dtac partners with YouTube to offer unlimited streaming in one of its packages.

Advanced Info Service (AIS), Thailand’s largest mobile carrier, also follows suit with a new prepaid sim card that offers 500MB a month of free internet access and 2GB of Youtube viewing.

AIS data revenue increased 21% in Q1 of ths year while voice revenue dropped 17%.

The big mobile carrier players have the capacity to expand, but with stocks down by more than 30 percent from 2015, it will be difficult to convince investors that their growth in a data driven market is viable.

Thai smartphone owners really care about data

The surging importance of data demand for mobile carriers signify the rising mobile consumer trend in Thailand, and the rest of the Southeast Asian region. As consumers look for more data heavy deals, it creates more opportunities for mobile commerce and mobile focused campaigns by agencies.

A version of this appeared in Nikkei Asia on June 21. Read the full article here.