Singapore’s central bank pushed back its timeline to issue much sought-after digital banking licences, citing a need for companies and authorities to prioritise managing the impact of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

In a statement, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said its assessment period for applications would be extended from an expected conclusion in June to an unspecified date in the second half of the year.

The deadline for applications elapsed at the end of 2019, with 21 submissions received by that date.

MAS added the delay would: “Allow the digital bank licence applicants to dedicate their resources and attention towards managing the immediate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their businesses.

“It will also enable MAS to focus resources on ensuring monetary and financial stability, and ensuring that financial institutions remain resilient, and able to perform their role in supporting businesses and individuals through this challenging time.”

Singapore plans to issue two full digital banking licences and three wholesale ones. Of the applications received, seven are for the full permits, with 14 wholesale.

Applicants include Singtel, which partnered with taxi booking app company Grab on its bid; a consortium including gaming company Razer; and an alliance featuring handset manufacturer Xiaomi.