Southeast Asian ride-hailing app Grab expands into lending

FILE - In this Monday, July 24, 2017, file photo, a GrabBike driver rides on his motorbike in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Southeast Asian ride hailing app Grab is expanding into financial services in partnership with a Japanese credit card company, hoping to offer credit to millions of people without bank accounts. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana, File)
An Indonesian woman pays to a GrabBike driver in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Southeast Asian ride hailing app Grab is expanding into financial services in partnership with a Japanese credit card company, hoping to offer credit to millions of people without bank accounts. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A GrabBike driver rides on his motorbike in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Southeast Asian ride hailing app Grab is expanding into financial services in partnership with a Japanese credit card company, hoping to offer credit to millions of people without bank accounts. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Southeast Asian ride hailing app Grab is expanding into financial services in partnership with a Japanese credit card company, hoping to offer credit to millions of people without bank accounts.

Grab, founded by Malaysian businessman Anthony Tan, said Tuesday it will use its "huge cache" of customer data from the app to provide ways to measure creditworthiness of people outside the formal banking system.

The ride-hailing app says it has over a billion transactions a year including food deliveries and other services.

It said the joint venture with Japan's Credit Saison will begin by focusing on providing loans to Grab drivers and merchants for purchasing smartphones or working capital.

The World Bank estimates that more than 260 million people in Southeast Asia lack bank accounts, which restricts their access to credit.

"Many in our region have no access to loans that they can use to purchase a new home or grow their small business," Grab said in a statement. It said its lending business would "accelerate financial inclusion."

Grab dominates car and motorbike-hailing in much of Southeast Asia. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported last week that Uber has agreed in principle to sell its Southeast Asian operations to Grab, which would end the U.S. company's costly fight for market share in the region.

In Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy and most populous nation, Grab is in a fierce battle for customers with local operator Go-Jek.

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