By Bernd Debusmann Jr
The group's revenues have remained broadly flat in Q1, despite partner merchants being hit hard
The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to prove a “tipping point” for the adoption of digital payment solutions, according to Samer Soliman, Network International’s Middle East managing director.
On Wednesday, the London-listed Network International released a trading update in which it noted that group revenue remained broadly flat in the first quarter of the year, although revenue from its merchant solutions business fell about 60 percent year-on-year and issuer solutions fell approximately 10 to 15 percent.
The company – which has yet to release its Q1 financial results – did not provide monetary figures. It said that payments and processing operations have been unaffected by the pandemic.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Soliman said he believes that the coronavirus will prove to be an accelerant to the adoption of digital payments technology.
“Covid-19 has had a significant impact on consumer purchasing behaviour, and a very significant impact on consumer spend,” he said. “Businesses had to adapt to consumers placing orders online versus brick-and-mortar stores. A majority of them were not ready for that.”
Soliman added, “A lot of cash started to be converted into digital. I think it’s a tipping point.”
Network International is a partner to over 70,000 merchants and 200 financial institutions in the Middle East and Africa. In 2019, the Middle East accounted for 73 percent of revenue, within which the UAE represented 60 percent of group revenue.
In the short-term, Soliman said that the company is focused on “adapting its operating model to serve the economy and make sure businesses continue to operate” amid the difficult conditions the pandemic has caused.
“We’re working on building a strategy post Covid-19,” he added. “This is where, I think, investment in digital will accelerate. A lot of things will come out of Covid-19…..a big direction going forward [will] be digital and a social distancing economy.”
Earlier in April, Network International announced that it had contributed $1 million in cash to 1,000 of its most severely impacted small business clients, part of a larger $1.4 million pot of cash and other practical relief measures for small businesses and the micro-SME sector.
Additionally, it waived minimum transaction fees for all merchant clients in the UAE across all industries for the next three months.
Soliman said that the company is prepared to help SMEs further if required over the coming months.
“If we identify a need, we’ll definitely come and step into the market,” he said. “We are doing as many things as we can do at this point in time, and we’ll not shy away from further investing if required. But all of us hope by June we’ll see improvement.”
Throughout the first quarter of the year, Network International won a number of new direct acquiring merchant customers, including Zomato, Western Union and Luxury Fashion Group, which operates Yves Saint Laurent stores.