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Network International sees card payment growth easing

DUBAI, November 11, 2015

Economic weakness hitting tourism and spending dragged down card transaction expansion rates in the Middle East and North Africa in 2015, according to the largest payments processor in the Middle East and Africa.

Bhairav Trivedi, CEO of Network International, said growth in transactions would likely finish the year 10 to 12 percent higher from last year, lower than the levels reached in recent years of up to close to 30 percent.

This growth would likely rise to around the mid-teens next year, he said in an interview.

Still, the business is supported by a shift in the UAE, its largest market, and across the Middle East and Africa from using cash for payment to using cards.

"This year is tracking a little worse in terms of throughput," said Trivedi. "But this region is relatively insulated because 62 percent of transactions within the UAE are in cash. If you compare the US or Europe they're running at roughly 35 percent of transactions in cash."

The opportunity for expansion has prompted interest from private equity companies Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic. The pair were expected to announce a joint investment in the company this week, buying out the 49 percent share held by Abraaj Capital, Reuters reported on Monday, citing sources.

A source said on Wednesday an announcement on the deal could be delayed until next week at the earliest.

Emirates NBD, Dubai's largest bank, holds the remaining 51 percent stake in Network International, which has a presence in more than 40 countries. In 2014 it processed more than Dh85 billion ($23.14 billion) in acquiring volume transactions in the Middle East and North Africa, said Trivedi.

The UAE accounts for about 80 percent of the company's revenue, a level it expects to drop to around two-thirds of revenues in the next three to five years as it deepens its geographic diversity, said Trivedi.

Card transactions in the UAE by Russian and Chinese visitors sank by 57 percent and 20 percent respectively in the third quarter from the year earlier period, according to Network International data. Weakness in the rouble and a struggling domestic economy have discouraged some Russian visitors, while Chinese tourist numbers have been hit by stumbling economic growth in China.

That has been somewhat offset by strong spending from tourists from the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and south Asia, said Trivedi. - Reuters




Tags: Network International | Card payment |

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