Ant Fi­nan­cial makes in­roads in South Korea

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By HE WEI in Shang­hai hewei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China’s in­ter­net fi­nance heavy­weight Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vice Group gained an­other foothold in over­seas ex­pan­sion, af­ter a lo­cal lender it helped launch ob­tained the first op­er­at­ing li­cense for in­ter­net-only banks from South Korean reg­u­la­tors.

The move ac­cords with a com­pany strat­egy to ad­vance the idea of in­clu­sive fi­nance, as the na­tion’s top wire­less pay­ment provider has a goal to serve 2 bil­lion cus­tomers over the next decade around the globe.

bil­lion

With reg­u­la­tory clearance, K-Bank is al­lowed to pro­vide all bank­ing ser­vices, in­clud­ing de­posits, loans, credit cards, fi­nanc­ing and for­eign ex­change in South Korea, the com­pany said on Thursday.

It would mark the first time in 24 years for a brand­new bank to be started in South Korea, ac­cord­ing to the Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mis­sion. The en­vi­sioned bank will be cap­i­tal­ized at 250 bil­lion won ($213 mil­lion) with around 150 em­ploy­ees and head­quar­tered in down­town Seoul, Yon­hap News re­ported.

Ant Fi­nan­cial is the sole Chi­nese share­holder among a group of 20 in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors, in­clud­ing tele­com car­rier KT Corp.

Ant Fi­nan­cial said the K-Bank rep­re­sents a “unique glob­al­iza­tion model” that dif­fers from over­seas merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions — a com­mon path taken by Chi­nese firms as they ex­pand glob­ally.

“We ex­port our lead­ing tech­nolo­gies and ex­pand our global in­flu­ence. We ex­pect it to be­come a new ‘Chi­nese name card’ and con­sol­i­date our po­si­tion in the in­dus­try,” the com­pany said in an emailed state­ment to China Daily.

K-Bank marks yet an­other cause for cel­e­bra­tion for Ant Fi­nan­cial af­ter its par­ent Al­ibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd upped its stake in Paytm, an Ali­pay-like pay­ment sys­tem in India.

“Go­ing global is clearly one of the pri­or­i­ties for Al­ibaba. Part­ner­ships in cross­bor­der in­ter­net fi­nance will be in­stru­men­tal in pro­mot­ing its e-com­merce busi­ness abroad,” said an­a­lyst Li Chao from iRe­search Con­sul­tancy Group.

Ali­pay was cre­ated in 2004 as a tool to fa­cil­i­tate trans­ac­tions on Al­ibaba’s Taobao plat­form. But it has en­joyed ex­po­nen­tial growth since by launch­ing a string of fi­nan­cial prod­ucts and ser­vices rang­ing from in­sur­ance, small busi­ness loans to wealth man­age­ment.

Ant Fi­nan­cial, which owns the block­buster tool, holds pow­er­ful stakes as it rolls out busi­ness abroad. It banks on the 450 mil­lion users to em­brace the cash­less mo­bile pay­ments in China, ac­cord­ing to iRe­search fig­ures. By of­fer­ing an es­crow ser­vice, Ali­pay han­dles around half of the es­ti­mated $738 bil­lion Chi­nese peo­ple spent on­line last year.

num­ber of cus­tomers that Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vice Group plans to have in 10 years

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