Ant eyes rich po­ten­tial in Thai­land mar­ket­move

Mo­bile pay­ment ser­vice op­er­a­tor Ali­pay aims serv­ing half na­tion’s ne­ti­zens

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By CHAIHUA in Hong Kong grace@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Group, the op­er­a­tor of China’s most used mo­bile pay­ment ser­vice Ali­pay, on Tues­day an­nounced its move into Thai­land, aim­ing to serve half of Thai­land’s ne­ti­zens in the next five years as it speeds up its overseas ex­pan­sion.

Ant Fi­nan­cial signed a strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment with Thai­land’s As­cend Money, an arm of agri­cul­ture-tot­ele­coms con­glom­er­ate Charoen Pokp­hand Group. Un­der the agree­ment, the fi­nan­cial af­fil­i­ate of Alibaba GroupHold­ing Ltd will in­vest in As­cendMoney.

As­cend Money will copy Ali­pay’s ser­vice such as off­line e-pay­ment and mi­cro loan so that the Thais could use their mo­bile phone to pay for shop­ping, din­ing, call­ing a cab, and pub­lic util­ity.

The move in Thai­land is part of Ant Fi­nan­cial’s global ex­pan­sion plan to serve 2 bil­lion cus­tomers in the next 10 years.

In ad­di­tion to fo­cus­ing on fa­cil­i­tat­ing Chi­nese Ali­pay users mak­ing pay­ments in Thai­land, Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Fi­nan­cial, said at the cer­e­mony in­Hong Kong that the na­tion’s mar­ket also of­fers “vast un­tapped po­ten­tial”.

E-pay­ment now ac­counts for only 10 per­cent of all pay­ment meth­ods in Thai­land, ac­cord­ing to Ant Fi­nan­cial. Its goal is to pro­vide in­no­va­tive fi­nan­cial ser­vices to over 100 mil­lion cus­tomers and SMEs in Thai­land and South­east Asia by 2020.

Pun­na­mas Vi­chitkul­wongsa, CEOofAs­cend Group, said 80 per­cent of Thais do have bank ac­count but more than 60 per­cent of them are un­der­banked, the group which he be­lieves of­fers the big­gest op­por­tu­nity.

He ex­plained th­ese peo­ple are not qual­i­fied for loans, in­vest­ment or in­sur­ance prod­ucts from banks, so prod­ucts di­rectly tar­get­ing them are in the pipe­line, start­ing from lend­ing to SMEs.

By Oc­to­ber, Ant Fi­nan­cial’s overseas users had reached ap­prox­i­mately 200 mil­lion, about 30 per­cent of its to­tal users, but 150 mil­lion are users of Paytm, a lead­ing e-wal­let in In­dia. Ant Fi­nan­cial joined forces with the In­dian com­pany in early 2015 and one year later, the num­ber of Paytm users had surged from 20 mil­lion to 150 mil­lion.

Li Zhe­feng, an an­a­lyst at iRe­search Con­sult­ing Group, told China Daily that China’s e-pay­ment com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Ant Fi­nan­cial and WeChat, a pop­u­lar mes­sag­ing app with pay­ment func­tions, are en­ter­ing the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket be­cause their growth in China is slow­ing down.

Ant Fi­nan­cial’s Ali­pay had 3.7 mil­lion down­loads in Septem­ber, up by 18.7 per­cent from 3.1 mil­lion in Jan­uary, while its growth last year is more than 40 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to iRe­search.

Ali­pay’s down­loads in Septem­ber

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Alibaba’s founderJack Ma (sec­ond from left) and Dhanin Chear­a­vanont, chair­man and CEO of CP Group, at the launch of the part­ner­ship be­tween Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Group and As­cend Money on Tues­day in Hong Kong.

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