Mobile operators may be allowed to hold a maximum of 49 percent shares in companies that run mobile financial services, in what can be viewed as a U-turn from the Bangladesh Bank's previous stance.
Along with the banks and non-bank financial institutions, non-governmental organisations, multinational companies, investment firms and fintech companies with experience of working in banking and finance will be allowed to form an MFS provider company, according to the BB's latest draft regulation.
The draft regulation, however, said the MFS providers in the country will be led only by scheduled banks.
Banks will have to form subsidiary companies to provide MFS and the companies will play as payment service providers (PSPs).
One single bank, known as the parent bank, should have at least 51 percent of the equity of the PSP working as MFS. The remaining shares will be owned by NBFIs, mobile operators, NGOs and authorised entities.
The central bank has sent the draft guidelines to all banks last week and asked for their opinion within June 7.
If any bank does not give any feedback within the deadline, the BB will think that the bank will accept the draft regulations, according to the letter.
Earlier in 2017, the central bank prepared another draft regulation where it stated that no mobile operator can hold any share in the PSPs.
Prior to that, in 2015 the central bank had prepared another draft regulation where it said a single mobile operator would be allowed to hold 15 percent of the shares of a subsidiary company engaged in MFS operation and jointly they would be allowed to hold a maximum of 30 percent shares.
The BB, however, backtracked from its earlier decisions while preparing the latest draft guidelines. Mobile operators have long been demanding the green light to invest in the MFS operation, but the BB high-ups were openly opposed to the idea as the central bank had decided to follow a bank-led model.
In 2015, Trust Bank decided to form a subsidiary with Malaysia's Axiata Group to provide MFS, but the BB did not entertain their initiative. Axiata Group is now holding the majority shares in Robi Axiata.
It is not logical to allow any mobile operator to hold 49 percent shares in a PSP as the future financial system will largely depend on the mobile phone, said a central bank official. The branch-less banking is now becoming popular and the mobile operators will lead the trend if the latest draft regulation is approved, he said.
Another BB official said a haphazard situation might be created in the MFS sector if the central bank approves the draft guidelines.
Many disputed issues may emerge and a tussle will be created between the BB and the Bangladesh Telecommu-nication Regulatory Commission, he added.