Ant Financial Services Group, the financial services affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., has accelerated global expansion plans as it took a minority interest in Thailand’s online payment firm Ascend Money.
Details of the deal were not disclosed but media reports indicated that Ant Financial is taking a 20% stake initially, with an option to acquire another 10% in the future.
Ant Financial is hoping to help Ascend Money, a unit of Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand, grow its online and offline payments and financial services in Thailand.
Online banking usage in Thailand is low, at 20%, while 75% of e-commerce transactions in the country were conducted via cash drop-offs and face-to-face cash exchanges.
The deal would also open doors for Ant Financial to expand into the broader Southeast Asian market. Ant Financial chief Eric Jing said in a statement that the company aimed to provide financial services to more than two billion users within the next ten years.
Last year, Ant Financial and its affiliate Alibaba invested around US$1 billion in One97 Communications, which runs India’s largest mobile payment and commerce platform Paytm.
As of October, Ant Financial has over 450 million users, with 40 million users outside China. Paytm has 150 million users, which puts Ant Financial’s total affiliated overseas users at nearly 200 million.
A key driver for Ant Financial’s push to build a broad partner network was to provide over 100 million Chinese outbound tourists with a familiar payment option.
Ant Financial said more than 80,000 retailers in 70 countries accepted Alipay payments as of the end of September.