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Network International sees rebound from COVID as digital payments rise

A relaxation of coronavirus curbs in the United Arab Emirates has boosted volumes at Dubai-based payments processor Network International, its CEO said, but tourist-related spending will take longer to recover.

By Davide Barbuscia

DUBAI, Aug 27 (Reuters) - A relaxation of coronavirus curbs in the United Arab Emirates has boosted volumes at Dubai-based payments processor Network International NETW.L, its CEO said, but tourist-related spending will take longer to recover.

The COVID-19 pandemic weighed on Network's performance in the first half of the year, CEO Simon Haslam told Reuters. In the six months ending June 30 the company posted $134.2 million in revenue, down 11.9% year on year.

The United Arab Emirates - the company's main market in the Middle East - has eased strict coronavirus lockdown measures over the last few months and Dubai, the UAE city-state that relies heavily on tourism for its economy, re-opened to foreign visitors in July.

"Since things have started to reopen again, obviously we've seen that volume pick back up again and I would say that as of July ... we were probably at about 90% of our domestic volume," the CEO said.

He said about 25% of the company's processing volume in the UAE is tourist-related. "Whilst borders are open right now, I don't expect to see a pick up until Q4."

Network, which listed on the London Stock Exchange last year in a deal that valued it at 2.18 billion pounds ($2.88 billion), plans to capitalise on the adoption of digital payments in a region - the Middle East and Africa - where cash transactions dominate.

"COVID is a short-term disruptor of that long-term macro, but I'm a strong believer that also it will actually become an accelerator, and we're already seeing the trend, the move from offline to online," said Haslam.

Network said last month it plans to buy DPO Group, an online commerce platform in Africa, for a total consideration of about $288 million. It expects to complete the acquisition in the fourth quarter, Haslam said.

($1 = 0.7570 pounds)

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; editing by Barbara Lewis)

((Davide.Barbuscia@thomsonreuters.com; +971522604297; Reuters Messaging: davide.barbuscia.reuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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