China's Ant wants a bite of South Korea's Kakao Pay

An Ant Financial mascot in the Hangzhou office. The Chinese firm is set to invest US$200 million (S$284 million) in South Korea's mobile payment service Kakao Pay.
An Ant Financial mascot in the Hangzhou office. The Chinese firm is set to invest US$200 million (S$284 million) in South Korea's mobile payment service Kakao Pay.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI • China's Ant Financial will invest US$200 million (S$284 million) in Kakao Pay, the mobile payment subsidiary of South Korean messaging platform giant Kakao Corp, extending a major push by the Chinese firm to create a global network of financial assets.

The two firms said in a joint statement yesterday that the investment was part of a larger strategic partnership to help connect Ant's 450 million global users with Kakao Pay, which currently has over 14 million members on its platform.

Ant, valued at US$60 billion during a US$4.5 billion fund-raising round last April, has been using its financial firepower to expand at home and overseas as it prepares for an initial public offering that could happen later this year.

The payment affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding announced an US$880 million deal for US money-transfer firm MoneyGram International last month. Ant also has investments in Indian mobile payment and e-commerce website Paytm, and Thai financial technology firm Ascend Money. It plans to expand in the Philippines with a stake in Globe Telecom's fintech firm Mynt.

"South Korea is an important market for Ant Financial in its global expansion, and we see many opportunities in the market for innovative services and growth in mobile payments," said Mr Douglas Feagin, president of Ant Financial International. It is the world's most valuable online finance company, and dominates the online payments industry in China with its Alipay platform, but has been facing growing competition from domestic rival Tencent Holdings' Wechat Pay.

Ant is currently looking to raise as much as US$3 billion in debt to fund acquisitions and further foreign investments, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters earlier this month.

Ant, valued at US$60 billion (S$85 billion) during a US$4.5 billion fund- raising round last April, has been using its financial firepower to expand at home and overseas as it prepares for an initial public offering that could happen later this year.

"Ant's ultimate goal is to become a global payments monster - the biggest, broadest option for consumers," said Mr Ben Cavender, principal at China Market Research Group.

Kakao, best known for its online messaging platform Kakao Talk, has in total over 48 million users. Its Kakao Pay unit is a financial services platform which offers services such as bill payment and remittance.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'China's Ant wants a bite of South Korea's Kakao Pay'. Print Edition | Subscribe