Argentina’s Ualá, the fintech company backed by George Soros, Steve Cohen and Tencent Holdings, will begin offering loans for its clients in Mexico through its alliance with Mexican bank ABC Capital.
The service will be offered through ABC and allow for loans of up to 20,000 Mexican pesos (US$1,011) between 12 and 36 months, according to Ualá chief executive officer Pierpaolo Barbieri. Ualá announced the purchase of ABC in November 2021, with the acquisition still pending regulatory approval.
“It’s a key milestone for what we’re building in Mexico,” Barbieri said in an interview. “It’s also one of the great benefits of having a banking license, which allows us to offer more complex products.”
Ualá plans to target both middle class clients and previously unbanked users in Mexico, coming up with its own credit score for them based on the data it gathers. Because the company is fully digital, with lower costs than brick-and-mortar banks, the partnership will be able to offer lower rates to its clients than those of existing banks, Barbieri said.
Ualá, which provides a slew of financial services based on a prepaid card managed through a mobile app in Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, expects to invest US$100 million over the next 18 months in Latin America’s second largest economy, part of its plan to spend US$150 million in the region next year.
For ABC Capital it’s also a milestone, as the bank previously only offered loans to real estate developers, said its chief executive officer Carlos Hernandez.
In Mexico, Ualá already launched this year mobile point-of-sales (mPOS) services and a service for clients to receive remittances from abroad. Of these, mobile payment solutions are the fastest-growing service, Barbieri said.
Ualá currently has more than 5 million clients. It was valued at $2.5 billion in its last funding round in August 2021 and also launched operations in Colombia earlier this year. The startup is also backed by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp.
The company is not expecting to seek a capital raise next year, and it’s not actively seeking acquisitions but is “open to opportunities,” Barbieri said. Ualá this year closed the purchase of Argentina’s Wilobank, Empretienda and Ceibo Creditos. The company is expecting to break even in its home market of Argentina in 2023.
“In three or four years, the Mexican market will be even larger than that of Argentina,” he added.
by Carolina Millan, Bloomberg