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Overseas services boosted by Alipay

By Meng Jing | China Daily | Updated: 2014-06-26 07:08

Internet giant Alibaba Group is promoting global use of its e-payment services amid a rising appetite for overseas shopping by increasingly wealthy but choosy Chinese consumers.

Alipay, Alibaba's payment arm, announced on Wednesday a partnership with the United States online payment startup Stripe.

Under the agreement, overseas merchants who use Stripe's payment software can now detect if shoppers are located on the Chinese mainland and give them the option of paying through their Alipay accounts.

The move is expected to be warmly welcomed by Chinese shoppers who are not happy with providing their credit card details to overseas websites but who use Alipay as an alternative payment solution.

Alipay is the country's largest third-party payment service provider.

Li Jingming, head of Alipay US, said in an e-mailed statement to China Daily that there is a huge demand for high-quality Western products and services in China.

"We're excited to be cooperating with Stripe in helping to accelerate the introduction of Western brands into China and in turning global online shopping into a simple and enjoyable experience for Chinese consumers," he said.

Stripe didn't disclose the number of merchants Alipay is cooperating with, but said it now allows online merchants to conduct transactions using 139 currencies and bitcoin, a virtual currency. It also plans to form more partnerships with popular payment providers in regions where credit cards are not widely used, according to media reports.

Li Ye, an analyst at Analysys International, an Internet consultancy in Beijing, said Alipay is a pioneer in terms of e-commerce development and providing a "bridge" between online shoppers and merchants.

"With Chinese consumers expanding their footprint overseas, it is high time that Alipay offered more cross-border payment services," she said.

Teaming up with overseas payment providers is a good strategy for Alipay's global expansion, as building up its own overseas financial channels from scratch would be too time consuming, Li added.

Alipay, with more than 300 million registered users in China, announced on Monday a partnership with Swiss tax refund company Global Blue. They are launching a service to enable Chinese tourists to receive tax refunds on their shopping paid directly into their Alipay accounts.

In the past year, Alipay has combined with partners in a number of countries. Deals signed include allowing users to pay airfares through travel payment network UATP and payment for accommodation at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore and for goods at South Korean shopping mall

Alipay's expansion abroad comes amid surging overseas spending by Chinese consumers.

Chinese tourists have been the world's top spenders since 2012 and bought $129 billion worth of goods and services overseas last year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

People who do not travel abroad are increasingly eager to place orders on overseas online marketplaces directly or to buy through proxy agents.

According to the China E-Commerce Research Center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, the overseas-buying market amounted to 74.4 billion yuan ($12 billion) in 2013. The center has forecast that the market will exceed 100 billion yuan in 2014.

Mo Daiqing, an analyst at the center, said Chinese online shoppers are increasingly enjoying shopping through agents because they feel they can get cheaper and better goods outside China.

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