Ant's global play is to be a payment aggregator, and it now reaches 1 billion users

After years of trying to replicate the success of its QR code payments solution overseas, Ant Group seems to have finally found a path to scale. Instead of going after end users, the Alibaba-linked fintech giant has been quietly forming partnerships with local payment providers in Asia. It is built somewhat like the Mastercard or Visa network for digital payments, allowing users to easily travel with their mobile wallet from home.

Ant calls the payment processing network Alipay+ to distinguish it from Alipay, its consumer wallet that has become ubiquitous in China. Alipay+ integrates with 15 payment methods, allowing merchant partners to reach over one billion users, said Angel Zhao, president of international business at Ant Group, during the Singapore Fintech Festival on Thursday.

To create a network effect, Alipay+ has been busy introducing merchants. Today, it supports over 2.5 million businesses worldwide. A Filipino tourist visiting Japan, for example, can withdraw his GCash wallet and pay at an Alipay+-enabled store by scanning a QR code; they can also show the QR code on their wallet for the cashier to scan. Likewise, a traveler from South Korea can pay at the store with Kakao Pay, as can a Malaysian tourist with Touch ‘n Go. All the while, Alipay+ automatically calculates and performs the currency conversion part.

Alipay+ charges enterprise software fees by acting as a cross-border payment and merchant marketing solution provider, an Ant spokesperson told TechCrunch.

But how could a GCash user know about Alipay+ in the first place? Chinese Internet giants are never short of tactics to attract customers, and the subsidy is one of them. On the GCash landing page, users can find an entry in a list of merchant deals, provided they pay with Alipay+. At Shein’s pop-up store in Manila, Alipay+ gives users PHP 130 or $2 off at checkout. Other Alipay+ partner wallets across Asia have similarly incorporated these benefits.

The appeal of Alipay+ for merchants, on the other hand, is that one billion users can conveniently pay in their stores. This may sound impressive, but note that Alipay, which is not surprisingly included in the Alipay+ alliance, alone boasted 700 million monthly users as early as 2020 thanks to China’s huge internet population.

Alipay+ Bonuses via GCash / Image: Ant Group

Interestingly, Zhao stressed at the event that Alipay+ is not trying to be a super app – the type of mini-app-powered ecosystem exemplified by WeChat and Alipay in China. Rather, it serves as an infrastructure layer for other user-facing wallets.

“While many of you are familiar with Alipay’s success in China, Alipay+ is not just another super app we’re launching globally. Built on Alipay’s technological capabilities and know-how, Alipay+ offers cross-border digital payment and marketing solutions, connecting global merchants, online and offline, with multiple e-wallets and payment methods from different countries and regions, and helping merchants engage with mobile-savvy users of these payment methods. We are off to a remarkable start since its official debut last year.”

Starting today, Alipay+ integrates with the following payment providers in Asia:

  • Akulaku Paylater (Indonesia)
  • Alipay (Mainland China)
  • AlipayHK (Hong Kong)
  • Boost (Malaysia)
  • The Bank of the Philippine Islands (Philippines) app
  • Dana (Indonesia)
  • EZ-Linke Wallet (Singapore)
  • HelloMoney from Asia United Bank (Philippines)
  • GCash (Philippines)
  • Kakao Pay (South Korea)
  • Rabbit Line Pay (Thailand)
  • TrueMoney Wallet (Thailand)
  • Touch ‘n Go eWallet (Malaysia)

Although Ant has been exploring overseas growth for years, the task has taken on new urgency after Beijing told it to review all aspects of its business in China. Ant is expected after the update operate more like a traditional financial holding company and takes more capital risks, which will inevitably hurt its profitability.

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