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Alibaba’s Fintech Arm Says Its Focus Remains on Asia

November 1, 2016, 8:53 AM UTC
Alibaba taps "she power" in entrepreneurship
Lucy Peng, Chief People Officer and Chief Executive Office of Ant Financial Services Group, speaks during the Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship held by Alibaba Group in Hangzhou city, east China's Zhejiang province, 20 May 2015. An international women's conference organized by Alibaba Group opened on Wednesday in east China's Hangzhou city, for businesswomen to share their entrepreneurial experience. During his speech, Alibaba's founder Jack Ma said, the internet age has provided women with unprecedented opportunities in business. Over 50 percent of the online shop owners registered on Alibaba's taobao.com are women. Female shop owners generally have better credibility than their male counterparts. Ma said that Alibaba also owes its success to its women employees. "About 49 percent of our employees are women and 34 percent of top managers are female," he said. Talking about the advantages women have in starting their own business, Ma said, women are more loyal in careers; they are more resilient when facing setbacks; they are more considerate and know better the art of balance, for they have been striving for a balance between family and work. Ma's opinion was echoed by Liu Qing, president of the popular taxi-hailing company Didi Dache. She said, the cultures of the companies with female managers usually value balance, harmony and tolerance. Women tend to be more sensitive than men, and that sensitivity can help a female manager to better lead her team, she said. When sharing her success experience, Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, provided her tips for women aspiring for successful businesses. Female entrepreneurs should persevere, be fearless to risk and fail, and always spare time to look inward and explore their own intuition and wisdom, she said. According to Alibaba, the event has attracted some 800 female participants from around the world. Alibaba is considering making it a regular event.
Photograph by Zhejiang Daily — Imaginechina/AP

Ant Financial Services Group, the world’s biggest financial technology company, plans to focus its expansion plans in Asia before looking to go more global, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Ant, Alibaba Group Holding’s online finance arm, will offer its insurance and investment management products outside of China, senior vice president Douglas Feagin said at an event to mark a tie-up with Thai payment firm Ascend.

The Thailand deal marks Ant’s first significant expansion effort into foreign payments in Asia since last year’s partnership with India’s PayTM, which raised over $500 million in a round led by Alibaba (BABA) in September.

Ant’s payment platform Alipay has been tussling with major local rival Tencent Holdings (TCEHY), whose Tenpay has also been making an overseas push by targeting thousands of retailers particularly around Asia.

Ant plans to replicate the Alipay model in Thailand, with a goal of reaching more than half of the country’s internet users in five years, it said.

“We are leading first with payments and related services but we may very well offer other products and services market by market,” Feagin said.

 

The move extends a global push that has seen the firm move into the United States and Europe. Last month Ant expanded its mobile payment app service into the U.S. market in a bid to reach Chinese consumers traveling abroad.

Ant said in a statement that it has 450 million users, of which 40 million are outside China. It also has another 150 million when users of its PayTM tie-up are included.

In August both Alipay and Tenpay secured licenses to operate their mobile payments services in Hong Kong.

Ascend, which allows users to deposit their cash into a digital wallet, and Ant Financial are counting on the huge number of people without bank accounts in Southeast Asia to turn to their payments, lending and other services.

The region has nearly 370 million people without bank accounts and who use cash on a day-to-day basis, Ascend Group CEO Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa said.

Feagin, a former Goldman Sachs banker who leads Ant’s international business, added there were no set plans currently for the timing or venue of a potential initial public offering, though there were benefits to going public.

Ant Financial raised $4.5 billion in a record funding round in April, valuing the company at about $60 billion, the same as American Express (AXP) or insurer Chubb (CB) and more than any other privately held fintech company.