UAE digital payments return to pre-coronavirus levels amid e-commerce surge

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The volume of digital payments in the UAE have recovered to pre-coronavirus levels, boosted by the surge in e-commerce, Network International said on Thursday.

The UAE-based enabler of digital business said it had seen a strong rebound in total processed volume (TPV) in its home market by the end of the year, with a pick-up in tourism also making an impact.

As the company announced a 15 percent year-on-year drop in total revenue in 2020 to $284 million, Simon Haslam, CEO, said: “We continued to see encouraging market trends throughout the final quarter and are pleased to report that we exited the year with positive momentum across all of our business lines.

“In our core market of the UAE, domestic direct acquiring TPV has fully recovered to 2019 levels, supported by strong e-commerce spending, while international volumes also benefitted from a pick- up in tourism over the holiday period,” he added.

Haslam also said the company’s acquisition of African-based DPO Group for $288 million is expected to complete by the end of March.

Technology-enabled payments enabler DPO is the largest online commerce platform operating at scale across the African continent with a presence in 19 countries.

“Our acquisition of DPO is expected to complete in the first quarter and it is pleasing to see their business going from strength-to-strength, with strong Q4 performance supported by Black Friday trading. We have already seen a strong indication of interest from a number of our existing bank customers, for DPO’s services, demonstrating both the highly complementary nature of our businesses and our ability to generate anticipated strong revenue synergies. DPO remains one of our key future growth accelerators,” Haslam said.

CEO Simon Haslam

He also said that the long-term structural trends toward digital payment acceptance continue apace in the Middle East.

“We continue to see a shift in consumer behaviour towards digital payments… if we look at a cohort of consumers who used their cards almost exclusively at ATMs in January 2020, one year later, those consumers are now only using their card at the ATM for less than half of their transactions, with the remainder taking place at a POS terminal or online.

“Looking ahead, whilst we remain cautious around the development of the pandemic, there are signs of improving consumer spending, underpinning our confidence in our ability to take advantage of the exciting opportunities on offer in the world’s most underpenetrated markets.”

Network International said that during Q4 2020, total revenue fell by 19 percent, although absolute revenues were higher than Q3, reflecting the continuing recovery in card and digital transactions across its markets, and particularly encouraging trading in December.

It added that its balance sheet remains strong with a total liquidity position of about $325 million.

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