Business / Corporate

Alipay operator looks to promote partner apps in Japan

Kyodo

Ant Financial Services Group, the operator of Chinese mobile payment service Alipay, hopes to make it possible for users of its partner apps in Asia to make cashless payments in Japan, the company’s top executive has said.

The fintech company, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd., offers its payment platform for cashless purchases to 1 billion users across Asia through tie-ups with local partners. Ant Financial has investments in these partners, which operate in nine Asian markets including Thailand, South Korea, India and Indonesia.

Alipay is one of the most popular payment apps in China and can be used at 300,000 shops in Japan — a five-fold increase from August last year.

But none of the apps provided by its partners can be used in Japan despite sharing the same platform, it said.

“We want to make it happen as soon as possible. There are no technological problem, but we must consult with antitrust regulators in the relevant countries and the app operators,” said Eric Jing, chairman and chief executive officer of Ant Financial, in a recent interview in Tokyo. Jing was in Tokyo to attend a mobile payment forum.

Using smartphones to pay by scanning QR codes is not a commonly adopted practice yet among Japanese consumers. But the government is promoting the use of cashless payments to attract more foreign tourists as Tokyo gears up to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games next year.

In Japan, non-cash transactions, including payments by credit cards and smartphones, account for just under 20 percent of personal spending, compared to about 90 percent in South Korea, 60 percent in China and 45 percent in the United States, according to data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

But an increasing number of telecom and online service companies are entering the digital payment market.

PayPay, a joint venture between internet company Yahoo Japan Corp. and cellphone carrier SoftBank Corp., and services from online retailer Rakuten Inc. and mobile carrier NTT Docomo Inc. have joined the market recently.

Jing said his company could work with more Japanese retailers but is not considering a capital tie-up with any company in Japan at present.