China's Alipay snags mobile-payment deal for US market

Alipay's wallet is already accepted by over 100,000 retailers globally. The deal with payment processor First Data Corp will enable Alipay's users to shop at four million US merchants, putting Alipay in the same league as Apple Pay in terms of accept
Alipay's wallet is already accepted by over 100,000 retailers globally. The deal with payment processor First Data Corp will enable Alipay's users to shop at four million US merchants, putting Alipay in the same league as Apple Pay in terms of acceptance.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • China's mobile- payment king wants a piece of the world's biggest consumer market.

Alipay, owned by Mr Jack Ma's Ant Financial, reached a deal that will let its users shop at four million United States merchants served by payment processor First Data Corp, the companies said on Monday in a joint statement. The rollout will begin with businesses that use First Data's Clover products.

"This will open up Alipay to where it's truly ubiquitous across the United States and hopefully more countries later," said Mr Souheil Badran, president of Alipay North America. He added that, in the US, "we decided rather than trying to do it on our own, this is an ecosystem that we're looking for a partner that can provide scale".

Alipay and Tencent Holdings' WeChat Pay dominate the mobile-payment market in China with a combined 90 per cent share. Alipay now wants to leverage the millions of Chinese customers who travel abroad by offering them services wherever they go.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The firm's mobile wallet - which can hold cards from American Express, Visa and Mastercard, among others - is already accepted by more than 100,000 retailers in 70 international markets, the company said.

The First Data deal will put Alipay in the same league as Apple Pay in terms of acceptance. Apple's mobile-payment service can be used at 4.5 million locations in the US, chief executive officer Tim Cook said last week.

Still, Alipay, which started in 2004 as an online payment processor for Alibaba Group Holding's e-commerce sites, is entering a market that is much less reliant on mobile transactions than its home country. China's mobile-payment transactions topped 38 trillion yuan (S$7.76 trillion) in 2016, triple the previous year, according to Beijing-based IResearch. That compares with US$112 billion (S$158 billion) in the US, Forrester Research said.

Alipay is just the latest Chinese payment player looking to make a deeper push abroad. Ant Financial has agreed to pay US$1.2 billion for the US money-transfer service MoneyGram International. And China UnionPay is working with US payment networks to develop international standards for mobile payments.

First Data operates a debit-card network, processes card transactions, and provides merchants with fraud detection and data analytics services. The company began a trial run with Alipay at select luxury stores in California and New York in November.

First Data shares have climbed 17 per cent this year, outpacing the 3.4 per cent advance of the 245-company Russell 1000 Financial Services Index. On Monday, the company reported better-than-expected first-quarter revenue of US$1.73 billion, fuelled by a 7 per cent increase in transactions at its global business solutions unit.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'China's Alipay snags mobile-payment deal for US market'. Print Edition | Subscribe