Dubai's Careem acquires money transfer platform Denarii in FinTech push

Under the deal, Careem Pay will use start-up's network to connect customers and Careem drivers with remittance services from licensed providers

Careem, the Dubai-based ride-hailing and online commerce platform, acquired start-up Denarii as it aims to expand its reach in the FinTech sector.

Under the terms of the partnership, the Careem Pay digital wallet will use Denarii's money transfer platform to connect customers and Careem captains — as the drivers of their rides and deliveries services are called — with remittance services from licensed providers, Careem said on Friday.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Dubai-based start-up Denarii is “transforming the way people move money across the world”, said Mudassir Sheikha, chief executive and co-founder of Careem.

“Denarii’s innovative API [application programming interface] will accelerate our journey to offering simple and affordable international remittance services, adding to the wide variety of services already available through Careem Pay.”

Careem entered the FinTech sector in April by introducing a digital wallet for its Careem Pay service that stores money for customers.

It also introduced a peer-to-peer (P2P) transfer service that enables users to send, request and receive money by using either a phone number, QR code or personal payment link.

Cross-border payments have become a critical component for companies in the UAE, with about two thirds (64 per cent) saying it enabled their business to grow and 53 per cent saying they were now using the platform more than they did during the pre-coronavirus pandemic era, Mastercard said in a report this week.

Remittances are a vital source of finances for several countries around the world, and the UAE is among the top countries because of the large expatriate community living in the Emirates.

Outward personal remittances in the UAE rose more than 11 per cent, or about Dh18 billion ($4.9bn) in 2021, to hit Dh174.6bn, the UAE Central Bank said in its annual report.

Globally, remittances are expected to hit $630bn in 2022, an increase of 4.2 per cent from last year, the World Bank said in May.

The increasing use of mobile platforms to gain access to financial services is also growing in the UAE, with more than half of all residents now using digital wallets as online payments increase after the pandemic. The trend is more popular among the younger generation, payments solutions provider said in a report last month.

Meanwhile, more than half of consumers in the UAE said they planned to go cashless by 2024, compared with the global average of 41 per cent, a Visa study showed earlier this year.

Careem is also actively expanding its other services. Last week, it acquired UAE subscription-based food delivery company Munch:On to boost the food offerings on its platform, and in March, the company unveiled plans to double the number of bicycles on its Careem Bike service to 1,750.

Careem's network of customers, staff, merchants and years of experience in payments processing will help Denarii to scale its reach, said Jon Edward Santillan, chief executive and co-founder of Denarii.

“It will enable us to increase the impact of the money transfer technology we built through Denarii. Careem has done more than any start-up in the region to simplify and improve lives, and we are excited to join the team to increase economic freedom for millions of people,” he said.

Careem, which was founded by Mr Sheikha and Magnus Olsson in 2012, operates in more than 100 cities across 14 countries and has created more than a million employment opportunities in the region.

The company was valued at more than $1bn in 2019 after US ride-hailing pioneer Uber purchased it for $3.1bn, making it the biggest technology deal in the region at the time.

Denarii, established by Mr Santillan and Walfrido Perez in 2019, has operations in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Philippines.

In 2020, it received support from Abu Dhabi's Hub71 and the Dubai Financial Services Authority, and accepted grants from the Abu Dhabi Investments Office in 2021, according to its website.

Updated: July 01, 2022, 12:52 PM