Millicom International Cellular SA plans an aggressive expansion of its Tigo Money digital wallet across Latin America, counting on a wider adoption of so-called QR codes and an imminent deal with one of the world’s top payment-processing networks.
“In our markets, more than 70% of the people do not have access to a real financial system,” Mauricio Ramos, chief executive officer of the telecom company, said in an interview. “We are talking about financial inclusion, the possibility of taking (the wallet) to all businesses via deals with Visa or Mastercard.”
A deal with either payment processing network should happen in the “not too distant future,” although Ramos declined to provide specific timing.
Tigo Money, operating in El Salvador, Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras, aims to make QR code payments available to more customers. An expansion into Nicaragua and Panama is in the works for 2022, Ramos said. The company will drive its financial services growth from its new hub in Panama, where the company just announced a $250 million investment.
Tigo Money is ready to embrace El Salvador’s currency switch to Bitcoin, Ramos said, a move that may give the company room to explore the potential of the crypto world. Millicom has 1 million Tigo Money customers in the Central American nation who, like consumers in neighboring Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, depend heavily on remittances flows.
Millicom isn’t considering partnering with other financial technology players as it believes it has the needed presence and drive to grow in Latin America using in-house resources.
“We have all the toys we need,” Ramos said.
The company reported 45% growth in operating profit in the second quarter as revenue increased 12% to $1.09 billion. Due to the strong performance, Millicom launched a share buyback program of as much as $100 million. Ramos said last month that Millicom is well-positioned to keep maintain mid-to-high single-digit growth in earnings over the medium term.
Millicom shares are little changed this year, compared with a 15% gain in the Nasdaq Composite Index.
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