E-wallet unicorn OVO’s future in question amid Lippo's divestment, talk of DANA merger

As even the conglomerate giant feels the pain of OVO’s aggressive cash-burning, should digital payments players rethink their strategy to gain market share, beyond the usual discounts and subsidies?

In early September, Indonesian media went abuzz when OVO, the e-wallet arm of the Lippo Group conglomerate, was crowned the country’s fifth unicorn. Since then, however, OVO has had to deal with mounting uncertainty about its future – mainly, whether Lippo was bailing out of its costly loss-making unit.

In fact, just the day after the news of its unicorn status broke, Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported that Singapore-based ride-hailing giant Grab was negotiating a merger between OVO and DANA, another Indonesian e-wallet, backed by Ant Financial, a Grab ally. 

Grab, which owns shares in OVO, wanted the merger to create a bigger and more powerful digital payments player that can overtake GoPay, the popular e-wallet by Gojek, Grab's rival for hegemony in Southeast Asia. No further details have been reported since.

More recently, eyebrows were raised when Lippo Group Chairman Mochtar Riady said the conglomerate had sold 70% of its stake in OVO. Lippo had

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