Alibaba’s fin­tech arm Ant says ex­pan­sion to fo­cus on Asia for now

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ -

HONG KONG: Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Group, the world’s big­gest fi­nan­cial tech­nol­ogy com­pany, plans to fo­cus its ex­pan­sion plans in Asia be­fore look­ing to go more global, a se­nior of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day.

Ant, Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd’s on­line fi­nance arm, will of­fer its in­sur­ance and in­vest­ment man­age­ment prod­ucts out­side of China, se­nior vice-pres­i­dent Dou­glas Fea­gin said at an event to mark a tie-up with Thai pay­ment firm As­cend.

The Thai­land deal marks Ant’s first sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion ef­fort into for­eign pay­ments in Asia since last year’s part­ner­ship with In­dia’s PayTM, which raised over US$500 mil­lion (RM2.09 bil­lion) in a round led by Alibaba in Septem­ber.

Ant’s pay­ment plat­form Ali­pay has been tus­sling with ma­jor lo­cal ri­val Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd, whose Ten­pay has also been mak­ing an over­seas push by tar­get­ing thou­sands of re­tail­ers par­tic­u­larly around Asia.

Ant plans to repli­cate the Ali­pay model in Thai­land, with a goal of reach­ing more than half of the coun­try’s in­ter­net users in five years, it said.

“We are lead­ing first with pay­ments and re­lated ser­vices but we may very well of­fer other prod­ucts and ser­vices mar­ket by mar­ket,” Fea­gin said.

The move ex­tends a global push that has seen the firm move into the US and Europe. Last month Ant ex­panded its mo­bile pay­ment app ser­vice into the US mar­ket in a bid to reach Chi­nese con­sumers trav­el­ling abroad.

Ant said in a state­ment that it has 450 mil­lion users, of which 40 mil­lion are out­side China. It also has an­other 150 mil­lion when users of its PayTM tie-up are in­cluded.

In Au­gust both Ali­pay and Ten­pay se­cured li­censes to op­er­ate their mo­bile pay­ments ser­vices in Hong Kong.

As­cend, which al­lows users to de­posit their cash into a dig­i­tal wal­let, and Ant Fi­nan­cial are count­ing on the huge num­ber of peo­ple with­out bank ac­counts in South­east Asia to turn to their pay­ments, lend­ing and other ser­vices.

The re­gion has nearly 370 mil­lion peo­ple with­out bank ac­counts and who use cash on a day-to-day ba­sis, As­cend Group CEO Pun­na­mas Vi­chitkul­wongsa said. – Reuters

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