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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mobitel set to partner UCB

Mobitel set to partner UCB

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A tuk tuk passes by a stall selling Cellcard top-up cards on Street 51 in Phnom Penh today

Mobitel is in talks with Union Commercial Bank to process its customers’ mobile phone money transactions in order to meet legal requirements from the National Bank of Cambodia.

Mobitel controversially launched its Cellcard Cash money transfer scheme last September without applying for oversight or linking with a bank for payment processing, as stipulated in an NBC edict.

It has since held discussions with the central bank working towards obtaining the licence. Officials today confirmed that progress is being made.

“We [Mobitel and UCB] have already approved each other in principle for the deal.

“Now we are just waiting to receive approval from the NBC,” said UCB senior manager Chear Ratana today.

Meanwhile, NBC has pushed back its deadline for Mobitel to submit to its oversight by two months.

According the central bank’s director general and spokeswoman Nguon Sokha, the company has until April to complete the required paperwork and partner with a bank or financial institution.

It had previously set a February deadline for Mobitel to meet its requirements.

“We hope to reach a good solution that will satisfy all parties,” she said, declining to confirm Mobitel’s partner.

She added that while the central bank was in talks with Mobitel it was also conducting exploratory discussions with an unnamed company interested in launching a similar scheme.

Mobitel had received an undisclosed amount of funding for Cellcard Cash from the Mobile Money for the Unbanked programme, which had been funded largely from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

MMU spokeswoman Claire Crandon confirmed today that Mobitel’s funding was frozen due to the oversight issues, adding that the money transfer service continued to be available in Cambodia.

“No further disbursements have been given from the MMU Fund to [Mobitel’s parent company] CamGSM until the regulators have given approval of the service,” she said.

Mobitel chief executive officer David Spriggs declined to comment on the firm’s discussions with UCB today.

ANZ Bank-owned Wing received the first licence from the NBC to launch a mobile money transfer service in December.

Acting chief executive officer of Wing, Lee-Anne Pitcaithly, said the firm supported the NBC, calling it a “very fair and judicious overseer, with a strong focus on ensuring the integrity of the payments system and limiting the possibility of the payments system being used for improper purposes”.

ACLEDA Bank also offers banking over mobile phones through its ACLEDA Unity programme.

ACLEDA executive vice president So Phonnary said the bank had been careful to seek NBC approval. ADDITIONAL REPORTING MAY KUNMAKARA

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