JackMa opens his wal­let to Europe, but not to Euro­peans


Jack Ma will set a bag aside for you at your fa­vorite Paris store or hail you a ride in Rome — just as long as you’re not Euro­pean.

China’s big­gest third-party pay­ments plat­form Ali­pay, an af­fil­i­ate ofMa’s Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd, is sign­ing deals with brick and mor­tar re­tail­ers in Europe to bulk up its of­fer­ing for Chi­nese tourists and ex­pats.

It’s seek­ing to add ex­tras to its mo­bile wal­let app for Chi­nese trav­el­ers in France, the UK, Ger­many and Italy, though it has no plans to of­fer its ser­vices to con­sumers who aren’t from China.

“Europe is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for our Chi­nese cus­tomers, so it’s an im­por­tant mar­ket for us,” Rita Liu, head of Ali­pay Europe, Mid­dle-East and Africa, said in an in­ter­view. “We’re ac­tively look­ing for part­ners across Europe — mer­chants who want to cater to Chi­nese tourists or tech­ni­cal providers on the pay­ments side. But we have no plans to tar­get Euro­pean cus­tomers.”

Ali­pay held talks with re­tail­ers in the French cap­i­tal in­clud­ing Prin­temps, one of the city’s big­gest depart­ment stores; it un­veiled a deal last week to sell travel in­sur­ance from Axa SA to its users; and it’s work­ing with Ger­many’s Wire­card AG to sup­port the mo­bile wal­let ser­vice in as many as 69 stores at Mu­nich Air­port. Ali­pay is in talks with other tech­ni­cal, re­tail and pay­ment part­ners in France and Ger­many, as well as the UK and Italy, Liu said.

The cross-bor­der strat­egy mim­ics one Ali­pay— with 450 mil­lion users — has de­ployed with US part­ners. It has cut deals with the likes of Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc, Airbnb Inc and Macy’s Inc to let Chi­nese cus­tomers pay with the Ali­pay wal­let, ei­ther by tap­ping their phone on a con­tact­less reg­is­ter or hav­ing a cashier scan a bar code on the mo­bile screen to charge a reg­is­tered ac­count.

It high­lights how in pay­ments, as with other tech sec­tors, Europe and the US need Chi­nese cus­tomers more than the other way around, echo­ing Uber’s hum­bling les­son from sell­ing its Chi­nese op­er­a­tions to lo­cal ri­val Didi Chux­ing.

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