UAE-based payments firm Network International has obtained a licence to expand its merchant acquiring business in Saudi Arabia.

The major payment institution (Major PI) licence, issued by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), is expected to strengthen the company’s footprint in the kingdom, it said in a statement on Thursday.

With the licence, the company will be able to extend acquiring solutions to different businesses, from high-volume retailers to individual entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Network International, which earlier targeted a $50 million Saudi revenue over the medium to long term, expects to further accelerate the kingdom’s digital transformation by reducing cash reliance and increasing digital transactions.

Saudi Arabia remains a cash-intensive economy as of 2022, but the kingdom has been moving away from physical payments toward a more digital payment landscape, according to a 2023 report from fintech firm FIS.

The kingdom also has the highest rate of prepaid card use among all the markets tracked by FIS in 2023. Prepaid cards accounted for 15% of Saudi Arabia’s point-of-sale (POS) transaction value in 2022. Digital wallets accounted for 22%, while cash accounted for 39%.

(Writing by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)