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