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Ant Financial sees rich opportunities

By He Wei in Hangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-19 07:43

Ant Financial sees rich opportunities

Tim Clancy, from Australia, pays a bill with his smartphone at a restaurant in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on Friday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Ant Financial Services Group said on Monday it will extend its indigenous mobile payment technologies to economies along the Belt and Road Initiative and unveil a number of Alipay-like services this year.

The plan marks the company's accelerated pace in expanding globally, adding to the existing five Asian markets where the financial technology powerhouse has announced investment plans since 2015.

"Technology exports will effectively save five to eight years' time of our local partners in developing new technologies and conducting feasibility tests," said Jia Hang, senior director of international business at Ant Financial.

The firm is counting on partners outside China to bring its model of online finance and local services to emerging Asian markets, where a substantial number of the population have no access to banking services and are underserved by traditional financial institutions.

Through strategic investments, the company can tap into the vast resources of one of the world's most populous regions, Jia noted.

For instance, its investment in Thailand's Ascend Money, an arm of the agricultural-to-telecom conglomerate, can give them access to local users and merchants.

In its latest overseas move, Ant Financial linked up this month with Indonesia's second-largest media firm Emtek to form a payment platform within BlackBerry's messaging service, which covers 63 million users in the country.

The company hopes to serve 2 billion users globally within a decade. To achieve that goal, it provides a familiar payment option to Chinese outbound travelers and help foreign partners build technical infrastructure and solutions for local purposes.

"In developed countries, we prioritize cross-border settlements for international merchants because of their unmet needs to sell to more customers. In developing areas we target underserved individuals," Jia said.

Ant Financial's effort represents a genuine breakthrough in business know-how and putting the ideal of inclusive finance into practice, said Xu Yuan, a professor at the National School of Development at Peking University.

The overseas expansion is creating synergies for its parent Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, whose e-commerce business, logistics networks and cloud computing services are all making inroads in Southeast Asia.

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