Singapore’s Sea prepares move into Indonesia’s insurance sector

Sea, one of south-east Asia’s largest technology companies, is preparing a move into Indonesia’s insurance sector as it battles regional “super app” competitors for dominance in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets.

The Singapore-based company has drawn up plans to acquire an insurance company in Indonesia, the region’s largest economy and the biggest digital market, according to two people close to the deliberations.

One of the people said a likely target was Asuransi Mega Pratama, a group recently acquired by one of Sea’s business partners, which would pave the way to entering a general insurance market worth more than $5bn in Indonesia.

Such a purchase would allow Sea to better compete with rival “super apps”, such as Grab and GoTo, which aim to provide a one-stop shop of financial and technology services to millions of users.

Both Grab and GoTo already offer insurance to users and ride-hailing drivers through partners. Sea, in some countries, also allows insurers to sell policies on its ecommerce platform.

New York-listed Sea has a market capitalisation of more than $36bn and has depended heavily on revenues from its gaming business, which has 654mn users.

Its ecommerce, mobile gaming and digital financial services benefited from the pandemic, but the company’s share price has plunged by more than 60 per cent this year, as tech stocks have taken a battering with investors growing wary of lossmaking companies such as Sea.

The company’s strategy has been to spend heavily on promotions like free shipping and vouchers to win market share. The company remains lossmaking five years after going public and made an operating loss of $1.5bn last year.

Forrest Li, founder and chair of Sea, said in an earnings call in March that the company expected its digital financial services arm to “achieve positive cash flow by next year”. In April, the company obtained a digital banking licence in Malaysia, alongside Grab and others.

Filings made to the Indonesian authorities show that insurer Asuransi Mega Pratama was acquired early in the year by an entity owned by Andy Indigo, son of Indonesian business tycoon Ganda, who goes by one name.

Indigo is also the nephew of Martua Sitorus, co-founder of Wilmar International, a major agribusiness company based in Singapore.

Indigo is Sea’s most important business partner in Indonesia, holding a near 50 per cent share in Sea’s digital payments arm in the country, and also co-invested in its acquisition of local lender Bank Kesejahteraan Ekonomi in 2020.

One person familiar with the talks said Indigo’s control over Mega Pratama prepared the ground for a takeover by Sea when it is ready to enter the insurance market in Indonesia.

Asuransi Mega Pratama made a 25.3bn rupiah ($1.7mn) operating loss last year.

Sea operates in multiple countries in Asia, Latin America and Europe. It entered the Indonesian market in 2015 and has since gained a strong foothold in the country.

Its ecommerce arm, Shopee, was the second most-visited ecommerce site in Indonesia in 2021, according to research firm iPrice, and its food delivery service was the third most-used in the same year, according to consultancy Momentum Works. Its digital financial services in the country spans payments, consumer lending, and a bank.

Sea declined to comment. Asuransi Mega Pratama and Andy Indigo did not respond to requests for comment.

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