MTN will look for new ways to bring banking services to its customers’ mobile phones in SA, after severing ties with Australian-owned partner Tyme.

Africa’s biggest cellphone operator scrapped the Mobile Money payment service it ran with Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s Tyme due to a "lack of commercial viability", said Maxwell Nonge, chief digital officer of MTN SA.

MTN retains a banking license together with a second partner, South African Bank of Athens, and can use that as a platform for new deals, he said.

"MTN is committed to remain a significant player in financial services and continues to explore opportunities in this space," Nonge said in e-mailed comments on Tuesday.

MTN’s focus on its financial services and digital banking operations has sharpened following a wave of hires with experience in the industry. Rob Shuter, who starts as CEO on March 17, has worked for both Standard Bank and Nedbank. Stephen van Coller, MTN’s head of strategy, mergers and acquisitions, was CEO of Barclays Africa’s investment bank, and incoming chief financial officer Ralph Mupita was previously head of insurer Old Mutual’s emerging-markets unit.

Mobile Money had gained 5-million customers since its launch in 2012. Vodacom stopped offering its mobile-banking product, M-Pesa, in SA as the strength of the banking system meant fewer customers were taking up the service than in other sub-Saharan African markets.

Tyme competing

For Tyme, the loss of the MTN alliance leaves the firm with supermarket chain Pick n Pay Stores as its sole partner with direct access to South African consumers. While Tyme is trying to secure a banking licence in SA, several developers have quit to join insurer Outsurance, Business Day reported. Rolf Eichweber, the executive head of strategic partnerships and a co-founder of the company, resigned in January.

Tyme, which stands for Take Your Money Everywhere, can compete effectively in SA without MTN’s backing, spokesperson Thoraya Pandy said on Monday. While Tyme’s website still notes its Mobile Money partnership with MTN, this information is "old and incorrect" and will be "fixed", Pandy said.

Billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital (ARC) will buy a 10% stake in Tyme, Commonwealth Bank of Australia said on Wednesday. ARC will introduce black shareholders, Commonwealth Bank of Australia said, adding that through the Pick n Pay alliance, Tyme had 685 kiosks and had registered 100,000 customer enrolments.


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