Telenor announced a deal worth $184.5 million to sell a 45 per cent stake in subsidiary Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB) to Ant Financial, in a move intended to bolster financial services in Pakistan.

In a statement, Telenor described the deal as a “strategic partnership”, which will see the companies combine TMB’s knowledge, local market presence and more than 20 million customers with Ant Financial’s technology through financial services platform Alipay.

The agreement will further enable “mobile payment and inclusive financial services to individuals as well as small and micro businesses in Pakistan”.

In Pakistan, where Telenor has a mobile presence, TMB operates Easypaisa, a mobile financial services platform first launched in 2009 and which the country’s state bank said had since developed into “the largest banking service in Pakistan in terms of agent network, active accounts and transactional value”.

Telenor added TMB also provides micro-finance and related financial services to the less privileged and unbanked segment of society.

Sigve Brekke, CEO of Telenor Group, said the agreement with Ant Financial will help to set “new standards in the digital banking business in Pakistan”.

“The establishment of this partnership is well in-line with the expressed Telenor strategy of focusing our financial services efforts in emerging markets, making sure that we’re able to build and modernise the business in line with customer needs,” he added.

World Bank statistics show more than 100 million people in Pakistan are unbanked, accounting for 5 per cent of the world’s population.