San Francisco-based mobile loans company Branch International has inked a $170 million (about Sh17.1 billion) loan and equity deal with American digital payments giant Visa and other investors for on-lending in Kenya and other markets it operates in.
Branch said Monday that the fresh capital and the new partnership with Visa will help expand its loan book and spread its services.
Under the deal, Branch and Visa will team up to offer virtual prepaid debit card numbers to customers around the world.
The Series C financing involved $100 million debt financing and $70 million equity. It was led by Visa and Foundation Capital and included existing investors, Andreessen Horowitz, Trinity Ventures, Formation 8, the IFC, CreditEase, and Victory Park as well as new investors, Greenspring, Foxhaven, and B Capital
The two said this will give “unbanked Branch customers the option to receive credit at any physical ATM, bypassing the need for a bank account.”
“We started Branch in Kenya, where M-Pesa gives anyone with a phone—including the unbanked—access to digital credit. Unfortunately, mobile money isn’t available in most countries,” said Matthew Flannery, CEO and co-founder of Branch said.
“With the help of Visa, now we can send cash to any ATM and reach the underserved around the planet.”
Visa Executive Vice President of Strategy Bill Sheedy said the new deal will enhance financial inclusion.
“Our partnership with Branch provides Visa a key distribution mechanism to reach people that were previously out of reach and help shape the future of microfinance.”
Established in 2015, Branch reported clocking its ten millionth loan early this year adding it had locally disbursed more than Sh25 billion to date.
Besides Branch, there are nearly a dozen other major players in the local market that issue short-term loans via mobile money.
They include commercial bank platforms such as M-Shwari, M-Co-op Cash, KCB M-Pesa, Equitel and Barclay’s Timiza. Non-bank-backed mobile lending apps include Saida and Mombo Mobile, Tala, with Okash by Opera software being the latest entrant.
Kenyans turn to the digital micro-loans mainly for short-term working capital owing to their convenience.