(Bloomberg) -- Ascend Money, a startup backed by Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. and Charoen Pokphand Group, has become Thailand’s first fintech unicorn with a valuation of $1.5 billion following a new funding round. 

U.S. investment firm Bow Wave Capital Management LP joined CP Group and Ant in the company’s $150 million financing round, Ascend Money said in a statement on Monday. The company will use the fresh capital to improve its mobile payments app TrueMoney Wallet as well as expand digital financial services across Southeast Asia. 

Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, is on the cusp of mass adoption of mobile wallets. TrueMoney is already the most popular app, with a 53% market share in the country, according to the 2021 Mobile Wallets report from London-based fintech company Boku Inc. 

The company’s success is “a testament to Thailand’s capability and strong ecosystem to support domestic fintech firms and startups for overseas expansion,” Suphachai Chearavanont, founder and chairman of the board of Ascend Money, said in the statement. 

Still, competition is intensifying from rivals such as Rabbit Line Pay, which has leveraged the popularity of the Line messaging app as well as a partnership with the Rabbit transit card. Thai financial institutions are also entering the space with ambition to cover the wider Southeast Asia region. Siam Commercial Bank Pcl, the nation’s biggest lender by market value, plans to overhaul its businesses and boost investments in fintech to become the market leader in the region. 

“We expect more competition in the industry,” Ascend Money Co-President Tanyapong Thamavaranukupt said in a video interview. The company’s goal is to have 35 million users or half the population of Thailand by 2023, up from 18 million now, he said. 

Since its inception in 2013, Ascend Money has expanded rapidly by leveraging CP Group’s vast network of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Thailand. It offers online payment services ranging from mobile top-ups, bill payments and peer-to-peer transfers under its TrueMoney brand that serves consumers. Outside Thailand, TrueMoney has 88,000 agents who help users with limited or no access to banking services make transactions. 

Ascend operates in six countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Its total payment volume stood at $14 billion in 2020, with Thailand leading the growth.  

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