It may take some time before the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) welcomes its first e-wallet on board, as experts believe the leading players in the field will wait until market conditions look up and their balance sheets improve.

Analysts interviewed by The STAR said a mix of economic risks and internal challenges delay the maiden listing of an e-wallet in the local stock exchange.

For one, it remains to be seen when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will slash borrowing rates, and this is hurting e-wallets given that one of their core businesses is lending.

E-wallet giant GCash is becoming a lender of choice by many Filipinos, providing loans to more than 4.5 million borrowers as of March. Similarly, digital bank Maya Bank Inc. has disbursed at least P34 billion in loans to about one million borrowers.

China Bank Capital Corp. managing director Juan Paolo Colet said potential listings like GCash will wait until the monetary policy is loosened up. The BSP has retained the benchmark rate at a 17-year high of 6.5 percent, but is expected to deliver a 50-basis-point cut within the year.

'Large IPOs (initial public offerings) will probably get pushed back until we see a dovish shift in monetary policy and sizable foreign fund flows into our market,' Colet said.

'Right now, the view is that the interest rates will remain elevated in the second half of the year, so some potential issuers have opted to delay their IPOs to next year,' he added.

Philstocks Financial Inc. research manager Japhet Tantiangco also pointed to the financial differences between GCash and Maya as a point of consideration for listing.

Tantiangco said Maya has yet to show that it can turn a profit, more so sustain it. In spite of this, Maya is making progress in its push to become profitable, cutting losses to around P400 million in the first quarter, from about P600 million a year ago.

Meanwhile, GCash is performing better financially compared to Maya, remitting P962 million in earnings to its parent Globe Telecom Inc. between January and March. The largest e-wallet in the Philippines is also gaining new users abroad through its expansion in 16 countries.

As such, Tantiangco said going public is just a matter of timing for GCash, unlike Maya that still has to prove its profitability and sustainability.

'Currently, the market is not performing well while trading activity has been tepid, showing low investor participation,' Tantiangco said.

'Conducting an IPO at this time could be challenging amid the low investor appetite, and GCash could be waiting for general market conditions to improve first before going public,' he added.

Regina Capital Development Corp. head of sales Luis Limlingan believes the PSE is ready to onboard an e-wallet anytime soon. However, he said possible listings, whether e-wallet or not, face monetary and regulatory risks impacting both company valuations and investor confidence.

Also, Colet flagged the need for the e-commerce market in the Philippines to diversify beyond its usual uses of bills payment and online shopping. GlobalData projects that the e-commerce space in the country will reach P968.9 billion by 2026.

'The local market is not yet as deep and sophisticated as the larger markets offshore,' Colet said.

As the largest e-wallet in the Philippines, GCash has teased about filing an IPO as early as 2023, but is keeping its doors open for new investors and even possibly an overseas listing.

Maya, for its part, has slowly expanded its deposit balance to P29 billion and customer base to 3.4 million, and the bank is poised to break even this year and book a profit in 2025.

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