China’s No.1 mobile wallet app, Ant Financial, which is an affiliate of Alibaba Group, has made its move to penetrate the South Korean payment platform market with a $200m investment. However, it’s just the latest in a number of significant overseas investments the Chinese company has made in recent months.
Earlier this week it was announced that Ant Financial had agreed a deal to take a stake in a fin-tech company in the Philippines – the details of the deal were not disclosed, but in a joint statement issued to the press at the time it was outlined that the Chinese web giants would be taking a ‘substantial minority interest’ in Globe Telecom’s Mynt organization.
That deal came just three months after its initial foray into the Southeast Asia market with an investment in Thailand. Now, Ant Financial, which is also a spin-off from Jack Ma’s online shopping empire will invest $200m into South Korea’s Kakao Pay.
Kakao Pay will launch soon and is a subsidiary of messaging app KakaoTalk which will enable people to make cashless payments through their phones for both purchases on the web and in stores. The company was launched in 2010 and has enjoyed great success in South Korea. The chat app is ubiquitous in the country and boasts claims that 97% of the smartphone owners in Korea are active users of the social networking application.
It’s backed up by an array of companion apps, like Kakao Music, Kakao TV, and Kakao Taxi. The upcoming Kakao Pay will be the latest addition. Ant Financial have identified the lucrative potential in Kakao Pay – its own Alipay has over 450 million active users – and is China’s top app for online and in-store payments, and features a whole host of financial services – such as personal investment fund and loans.
Ant’s Korea deal sees Jack Ma’s firm, valued at an estimated US$60 billion ahead of a possible IPO this year, “offer its wide range of digital financial services through Kakao Pay in South Korea,” said the statement.
“South Korea is an important market for Ant Financial in its global expansion, and we see many opportunities in the market for innovative services and growth in mobile payments,” said Douglas Feagin, president of Ant Financial International. South Korea has the world’s highest ownership of smartphones as a percentage of population – 88 percent.