SK Telecom's Wild Hana Card

Since their coming out as an item on May 22, SK Telecom and Hana Bank have been advancing on their JV project (Korea's leading MNO taking 49% of Hana Card, the credit card unit of Korea's #4 financial group).

SKT seems to be seizing a great opportunity : Hana is lagging in the card business, and regulations were eased after the crash last autumn : big non financial groups, previously forced out, were ripe with cash. But even without Hana, SKT is not a small player in cards and financial services.

SKT's mother company, SK Group, boasts 30M OK Cashbag card members. The operator's own loyalty card is used by 40% of its 23M customers, and Moneta, its mobile finance / mobile payment platform, is already one of the most advanced on earth : wired and wireless, Mifare contactless payments for subway, hundreds of thousands of dongles across the country, 3G USIM / EMV Over-The-Air, T Cash / Mobile T-money - a partnership with T money... SK Telecom is the closest thing to a bank you can get in the MNO world.

Financially, the partnership could secure the MNO's business model in the long term at the national level, and facilitate the internationalization of its platforms.*

Hana doesn't bring much of a customer base, nor even disruptive solutions, but certainly new marketing opportunities. A more comprehensive understanding of customers would come handily for a mobile leader who tended to loose his fabled mojo.**

* see "SK Telecom's Semestrus Horribilis"
** see "KT-NTT Venture Forum". Well. The integration of Hanaro Telecom by SKT and KTF by KT didn't inspire much both leaders : triple and quad-play promotions badly lack imagination and appeal.

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