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Western Union Advances Its Digital Growth Strategy With Investment in stc pay – Business Wire

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DENVER–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU), a global leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement and payments, today announced that the Company has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a minority stake in fast growing Saudi Digital Payments Company, or stc pay, a fully owned subsidiary of Saudi Telecom Company. According to the terms of the transaction, Western Union will invest up to $200 million for up to 15% ownership of stc pay. In conjunction with the investment, the companies extended the terms of their commercial relationship.

stc pay has rapidly developed into a leading digital wallet service in Saudi Arabia, a young and quickly developing market which offers huge potential for digital services. With a strong base of over 4 million customers and an established regional brand in the fast-growing digital wallet market, Western Union believes that stc pay is poised to experience strong growth in the future.

Western Union operates a strong and resilient global business across digital and retail channels. The Company has achieved significant progress in its digital growth strategy in 2020 through both its market leading westernunion.com channel and digital partnerships. In the third quarter of 2020, digital revenues increased 45% year-over-year, representing 21% of Western Union’s consumer business, and trended at an annual rate of over $900 million. The Company currently partners with stc pay, providing money transfer services that allow stc pay’s users to send money from its app to 200+ countries and territories in 130+ currencies through Western Union’s extensive global network of accounts, wallets, cards and retail.

I am extremely pleased with the progress of Western Union’s digital growth strategy this year. A key element of this strategy is partnering with innovative financial companies to expand services for their customers and drive incremental growth for Western Union. Our strategy has proven to be successful, and I am encouraged by the meaningful contribution our partnership with stc pay made to Western Union’s digital growth in 2020,” said Western Union Chief Executive Officer Hikmet Ersek.

Jean Claude Farah, President, Global Network at Western Union commented: “We are very excited about this investment in stc pay because of our demonstrated success working together. We believe the company is well positioned for continued growth and expansion into new digital payment services in the Gulf region. This is a great opportunity to participate in the growth potential of an innovative and dynamic financial services company such as stc pay and supporting its growing customer base through our market leading cross-border services.”

Nasser Alnasser stc group CEO said, “As a digital enabler and a pioneer in the digital transformation, we aspire to play a vital role in the vision of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) in many initiatives that support creativity and developing the financial services, as Fintech is a pillar of stc strategy.

Alnasser added : “We are proud that stc pay has not only reached unicorn status but also has been recognized as a fintech national champion in a very short time, and that motivates us to devote more efforts to provide more products to enhance the customer’s experience.”

Commenting on the transaction, stc pay CEO Ahmed Alenazi said: “We are delighted that such a prestigious and visionary company as Western Union has identified stc pay as a company with such strong prospects. We are grateful for their appreciation of the strength of the brand and the business we are growing. Their focus on customers’ changing needs and the drive for innovation makes them the ideal partner for our next period of growth.”

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, subject to receiving all regulatory approvals.

WU-G

About Western Union

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a global leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement and payments. Our omnichannel platform connects the digital and physical worlds and makes it possible for consumers and businesses to send and receive money and make payments with speed, ease, and reliability. As of September 30, 2020, our network included over 550,000 retail agent locations offering our branded services in more than 200 countries and territories, with the capability to send money to billions of accounts. Additionally, westernunion.com, our fastest growing channel in 2019, is available in over 75 countries, plus additional territories, to move money around the world. With our global reach, Western Union moves money for better, connecting family, friends, and businesses to enable financial inclusion and support economic growth. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com.

About stc pay

In harmony with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to progress and diversify digital services; stc pay, a subsidiary of stc Group, has been built to become a pioneering service of the futuristic wave that enables new endeavors and unlocks new possibilities.

We share a future vision with customers and businesses to provide new and innovative technologies and digital experiences. Using stc’s powerful network, we are able to better connect merchants with their customers through our secure digital wallet solution, stc pay, to empower both sides to complete their transactions quickly, easily, and securely.

Safe Harbor Compliance Statement for Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains certain statements that are forward-looking within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks, uncertainties, and assumptions that are difficult to predict. Actual outcomes and results may differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, our forward-looking statements. Words such as “expects,” “intends,” “targets,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “guides,” “provides guidance,” “provides outlook,” and other similar expressions or future or conditional verbs such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “would,” “could,” and “might” are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. Readers of this press release of The Western Union Company (the “Company,” “Western Union,” “we,” “our,” or “us”) should not rely solely on the forward-looking statements and should consider all uncertainties and risks discussed in the Risk Factors section and throughout the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2019. The statements are only as of the date they are made, and the Company undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement.

Possible events or factors that could cause results or performance to differ materially from those expressed in our forward-looking statements include the following: (i) events related to our business and industry, such as: changes in general economic conditions and economic conditions in the regions and industries in which we operate, including global economic downturns and trade disruptions, or significantly slower growth or declines in the money transfer, payment service, and other markets in which we operate, including downturns or declines related to interruptions in migration patterns or other events, such as public health emergencies, epidemics, or pandemics such as COVID-19, civil unrest, war, terrorism, or natural disasters, or non-performance by our banks, lenders, insurers, or other financial services providers; failure to compete effectively in the money transfer and payment service industry, including among other things, with respect to price, with global and niche or corridor money transfer providers, banks and other money transfer and payment service providers, including electronic, mobile and internet-based services, card associations, and card-based payment providers, and with digital currencies and related protocols, and other innovations in technology and business models; political conditions and related actions, including trade restrictions and government sanctions, in the United States and abroad, which may adversely affect our business and economic conditions as a whole, including interruptions of United States or other government relations with countries in which we have or are implementing significant business relationships with agents or clients; deterioration in customer confidence in our business, or in money transfer and payment service providers generally; our ability to adopt new technology and develop and gain market acceptance of new and enhanced services in response to changing industry and consumer needs or trends; changes in, and failure to manage effectively, exposure to foreign exchange rates, including the impact of the regulation of foreign exchange spreads on money transfers and payment transactions; any material breach of security, including cybersecurity, or safeguards of or interruptions in any of our systems or those of our vendors or other third parties; cessation of or defects in various services provided to us by third-party vendors; mergers, acquisitions, and the integration of acquired businesses and technologies into our Company, divestitures, and the failure to realize anticipated financial benefits from these transactions, and events requiring us to write down our goodwill; decisions to change our business mix; our ability to realize the anticipated benefits from restructuring-related initiatives, which may include decisions to downsize or to transition operating activities from one location to another, and to minimize any disruptions in our workforce that may result from those initiatives; failure to manage credit and fraud risks presented by our agents, clients, and consumers; failure to maintain our agent network and business relationships under terms consistent with or more advantageous to us than those currently in place, including due to increased costs or loss of business as a result of increased compliance requirements or difficulty for us, our agents, or their subagents in establishing or maintaining relationships with banks needed to conduct our services; changes in tax laws or their interpretation, any subsequent regulation, and potential related state income tax impacts, and unfavorable resolution of tax contingencies; adverse rating actions by credit rating agencies; our ability to protect our brands and our other intellectual property rights and to defend ourselves against potential intellectual property infringement claims; our ability to attract and retain qualified key employees and to manage our workforce successfully; material changes in the market value or liquidity of securities that we hold; restrictions imposed by our debt obligations; (ii) events related to our regulatory and litigation environment, such as: liabilities or loss of business resulting from a failure by us, our agents, or their subagents to comply with laws and regulations and regulatory or judicial interpretations thereof, including laws and regulations designed to protect consumers, or detect and prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud, and other illicit activity; increased costs or loss of business due to regulatory initiatives and changes in laws, regulations and industry practices and standards, including changes in interpretations, in the United States and abroad, affecting us, our agents, or their subagents, or the banks with which we or our agents maintain bank accounts needed to provide our services, including related to anti-money laundering regulations, anti-fraud measures, our licensing arrangements, customer due diligence, agent and subagent due diligence, registration and monitoring requirements, consumer protection requirements, remittances, and immigration; liabilities, increased costs or loss of business and unanticipated developments resulting from governmental investigations and consent agreements with or enforcement actions by regulators; liabilities resulting from litigation, including class-action lawsuits and similar matters, and regulatory enforcement actions, including costs, expenses, settlements, and judgments; failure to comply with regulations and evolving industry standards regarding consumer privacy, data use, the transfer of personal data between jurisdictions and information security with respect to the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act; failure to comply with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, as well as regulations issued pursuant to it and the actions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and similar legislation and regulations enacted by other governmental authorities in the United States and abroad related to consumer protection and derivative transactions; effects of unclaimed property laws or their interpretation or the enforcement thereof; failure to maintain sufficient amounts or types of regulatory capital or other restrictions on the use of our working capital to meet the changing requirements of our regulators worldwide; changes in accounting standards, rules and interpretations, or industry standards affecting our business; and (iii) other events such as: catastrophic events; and management’s ability to identify and manage these and other risks.

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Drugmaker Merck divests investment in Moderna – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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(Reuters) – U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co said on Wednesday it has sold its equity investment in Moderna Inc, after benefiting from a surge in the stock price of the vaccine developer this year.

Merck did not disclose the details of the sale proceeds, but said it expects to record a small gain from the sale in the fourth quarter of 2020. (https://bit.ly/3og5kil)

Moderna’s shares have risen more than seven-fold this year, valuing the company at $55.80 billion as of Tuesday’s closing price.

Moderna is one of the front-runners in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and on Monday filed for U.S. emergency use authorization of its vaccine.

Merck, which had invested $50 million in Moderna in 2015, said it would retain exposure to the company indirectly through its investment in venture funds.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Shinjini Ganguli)

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Amid slump, BMO exiting energy investment banking outside of Canada – The Globe and Mail

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Bank of Montreal is reshaping its investment and corporate banking division in a major way by winding down its energy sector coverage outside of its home market.

Going forward the bank’s investment dealer, BMO Nesbitt Burns, will devote its energy sector resources to the Canadian market, employees were told Monday. The move is expected to affect the bank’s long-standing Houston office, and the news comes amid a prolonged slump in the energy sector – particularly for U.S. shale producers.

“We’re allocating our resources to businesses where we are well-positioned from a market share position and to deliver strong returns now and in the future,” BMO said in a statement to the Globe. “As part of these efforts, we’ve made the financial decision for an orderly wind-down of our non-Canadian investment and corporate banking energy business.”

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The bank’s energy business, which includes investment banking and corporate lending, will now focus on the Canadian market where BMO said its “competitive positioning is strongest, our financial opportunity is most attractive, and we have a deep and long-standing commitment to supporting clients.”

BMO has a rich history in Houston, having opened its doors there in the early 1960s. Former chief executive Bill Downe, who retired in 2017, spent his early days as a credit analyst and corporate lender in the energy-focused Houston office.

The bank’s American energy business has been known for its acquisitions and divestitures arm, which focused on trading land assets. BMO has also advised on large U.S. deals, including serving as Spectra Energy Corp.’s financial adviser on its $37-billion sale to Enbridge in 2016.

But in recent years the outlook for U.S. energy has shifted dramatically, as the boom supported by shale oil and gas flamed out. Many producers created a bubble by overpaying for shale assets, often with a lot of debt, only to find out many of the wells are not as prolific as once hoped.

At the same time, the outlook for energy prices has taken a hit. Not only has the pandemic altered energy demand, but there has also been an oversupply of oil, which is expected to suppress prices for the near future.

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There is no alternative to staying invested – The Globe and Mail

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While the current investment environment is very challenging, investors increase their risks if they bet on the hot sector of the day or pull out their money and default to cash.

Bulat Silvia/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

The current investment landscape is not an easy one to navigate. Technology stocks are trading at record highs; value stocks have been underperforming for years, although they have recently shown signs of life; bond rates are close to zero; and holding cash is a money-loser once inflation is taken into account. So, what are financial advisors and investors to do?

While the current investment environment is very challenging, the biggest risk that most investors with a long-term horizon face is not losing money, but not having enough of it. That’s why there’s no alternative to staying invested in a well-diversified portfolio.

Although there’s no magic formula, there are some prudent steps that can be taken to get through these challenging times. Here are three simple and proven investment strategies to consider:

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1. Avoid extremes

There’s a growing group of investors who think they should concentrate their portfolios on a few big technology stocks – especially because of their strong performance during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s because the dopamine hit investors get when they make a correct bet on the market direction is often very stimulating.

That effect becomes difficult for investors to control and, as long as it’s working, they’re encouraged to take on more and more extreme bets on the market’s direction. They will consider it a better strategy than diversification.

The problem with this approach is that no stock or sector outperforms the market all the time. One day, something else will replace the performance generated by the big technology stocks – and nobody knows what that will be.

That’s why good advisors preach diversification even if it makes many investors feel remorseful in the short term. These advisors will also remind investors that diversification means getting the good, missing out on the extraordinary, but preventing the tragic.

For investors who are adamant on making such bets, advisors can suggest that they set up a “fun portfolio” in which they can place a smaller amount of money in a self-directed account. That will allow them to attempt to time the market without putting all of their assets at risk.

It’s an easy way for investors to fulfill that urge while ensuring most of their assets remain in well-diversified portfolios.

2. Prevent the default to cash

Faced with one of the most challenging investment environments in decades, some investors will shy away from investing altogether and default to cash. Although a global pandemic and growing geopolitical tension are two very good reasons to stay on the sidelines right now, there’s a big risk in doing so.

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Holding too much cash in a portfolio leads to a vicious cycle. When the market goes up, investors tell themselves they’ll wait for the next correction; then, when the market goes down, they’ll say that they’ll wait for it to drop further. As such, investors who succumbed to a “cash addiction” in 2000, 2008, or even this past March paid a heavy price. Of course, it’s easy to look back at these dates in hindsight and say that investing during these periods was a no-brainer, but that’s never the case.

Finally, the accompanying table shows the lousy returns cash has provided to investors during the past 10 years. It’s very difficult for investors to reach their life goals if they get a negative real rate of return 10 years in a row. That’s why advisors help fight the addiction to cash among some investors by focusing on their financial plans, making sure they stay invested, and by helping them manage the inevitable cycles of fear and greed.

Annual return on cash, adjusted for inflation

Year Return (%) CPI (%) Real return (%)
2019 1.65 2.25 -0.60
2018 1.38 1.99 -0.61
2017 0.56 1.87 -1.31
2016 0.51 1.50 -0.99
2015 0.63 1.61 -0.98
2014 0.91 1.47 -0.56
2013 1.01 1.24 -0.23
2012 1.01 0.83 0.18
2011 1.00 2.30 -1.30
2010 0.54 2.35 -1.81

Source: FTSE 91-day T-bill total return and Canadian consumer Price Index (YOY, NSA)

3. Focus on preparation more than predictions

Predictions are about trying to forecast the future while preparation is about setting the right expectations for whatever may hold. Investing has a lot more to do with preparation as it’s very difficult to foresee what will happen in the future correctly.

Good advisors can help investors prepare by performing a “pre-mortem” of their investment portfolios to know what could go wrong and how they should react if those scenarios were to happen. For example, advisors can help investors prepare for a situation in which tech stocks could fall by 25 per cent in a short time – and whether they should buy more shares or liquidate their positions.

Preparing for these situations ahead of time allows investors to follow a process instead of their emotions when these events happen. That leads to better results in the long term.

Jonathan Durocher is president of National Bank Financial Wealth Management.

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