By Anshuman Daga and Aradhana Aravindan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has shortlisted 14 applicants, which sources say include internet firm Sea and a joint venture of ride-hailer Grab and Singtel, for up to five digital bank licences in the city-state's biggest banking liberalisation in two decades.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said on Thursday the shortlist, out of the 21 applications received, comprises five digital retail bank applicants and nine wholesale who will now move to the next round of the selection process. It did not name the shortlisted applicants.
According to two sources familiar with the matter, besides Grab's venture with Singapore Telecommunications, and Sea, others on the retail bank licence shortlist include a group headed by gaming firm Razer and fintech firm MatchMove's consortium with Singapura Finance.
A consortium led by consumer entrepreneur Ron Sim said it has progressed to the next round of evaluation for the retail licence.
Singapore's banking market is dominated by DBS Group Holdings Ltd, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp and United Overseas Bank Ltd. The online-only banks are expected to operate at lower costs and offer services that differ from local incumbents. Retail bank license holders will need S$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in paid-up capital.
Grab-Singtel, Sea and Razer declined to comment. MatchMove did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
MAS aims to issue up to two retail licences and three wholesale licences and expects to award the licences by the end of the year.
It said in a statement applicants will next be shortlisted based on criteria such as their value proposition and business model, and ability to manage a prudent and sustainable digital banking business.
The central bank has asked the applicants to review the business plans and assumptions underpinning their financial projections, taking into account the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
S&P Global Ratings said in a report this month that the pandemic had boosted the case for digital banking services in Singapore. "A record number of digital banking transactions are taking place in Singapore during the outbreak," it said.
($1 = 1.3922 Singapore dollars)
(Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Aradhana Aravindan; Additional reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)