Quietly, Alibaba's fintech affiliate Ant Group has been building a global cross-border payments network by partnering with or investing in third-party e-wallets, banks, remittance services and other ecosystem players.
The latest added to Ant's alliance is 2C2P, a Singapore-based company that helps enterprises in Southeast Asia move money across borders. According to an announcement released on Monday, Ant will form a strategic partnership with 2C2P and become its largest shareholder, though a figure for the acquisition wasn't disclosed. With the deal, the Singaporean firm's network of merchants will be plugged into Alipay+, Ant's cross-border payments platform.
"Through this complementary partnership with Ant Group, 2C2P will be connected to a much larger merchant base and be well-positioned to advance our international expansion strategy," Aung Kyaw Moe, founder and CEO of 2C2P, said in a statement, adding that the partnership will help extend the company's "current 250 payment options" to include more e-wallets and payments methods.
Rather than building its own country-specific wallet from the ground up and acquiring the needed regulatory permits to operate such services, Ant has chosen the route of partnership. It launched Alipay+ in 2020 and has so far teamed up with a slew of third-party payment methods, including banks and also e-wallets like Touch 'n Go in Malaysia, GCash in the Philippines, KakaoPay in South Korea, TrueMoney in Thailand, Dana in Indonesia, bKash in Bangladesh and Klarna in Europe.
Alipay+ comes in handy when a user traveling, working or studying abroad wants to pay a local merchant, whether it's online or offline, in their home country's currency. If the retailer supports an e-wallet that works with Alipay+, the user can pay using Alipay+'s partnering wallet for the transaction, skipping the hassle of exchanging currency at a bank.
Alipay+ also comes with a suite of marketing tools that allow merchants to offer deals and discounts for customer engagement, a business model that it has proven in China's mobile-first payments market over the years.
The fintech giant has long had globalizing goals and set out years ago by targeting China's outbound tourists. While Alipay focuses on China's domestic consumers and merchants, its sister Alipay+ appears to be Ant's ambition to go after users outside China who have similar cross-border payments needs.
Ant's plans to pursue an initial public offering were shelved in November 2020 after the Chinese government ordered a regulatory overhaul into its financial practices, which subsequently made some of its China-based businesses less lucrative. Ramping up overseas expansion could be a way for the behemoth to sustain growth.
Ant says Alipay+ has served more than 1 billion users in Asia and 1 million offline merchants across Europe and Asia. Online, it has connected payments providers to customers on platforms like Apple, Foodpanda, Google and TikTok.