Ant Financial, the Alibaba spin-off that operates Alipay, has inked a deal with payment processor firm First Data that will allow its service to be used at point-of-sale with more than four million retail partners in the U.S.. The deal is the first of its kind for Alipay in the U.S.. The two companies previously partnered for a rollout with high-end retailers last year.
Alipay claims 450 million users worldwide. The lion’s share of that number are located in China, but the service has a growing footprint in Southeast Asia and is particularly popular in markets that are frequented by Chinese tourists because it represents an easier payment method. That’s almost certainly where First Data partners, who now support Alipay, will find significance from this tie-in. Local alternatives such as Apple Pay and traditional credit cards are unlikely to be heavily impacted by this new-found support for Alipay.
The deal itself fits in line with a series of expansions that Ant Financial is undertaking as it looks to grow its business outside of China. Ant has done deals and made investments in Korea, India, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand in an effort to claim early mover advantage in markets where digital payments and banking are just starting out. It’s an intriguing strategy when you consider that Alibaba, its e-commerce parent, is also making moves in these parts, bringing potential synergies between the two.
In the U.S., Ant Financial’s strategy is a little different since there is already an established payment system. It is, however, in process of acquiring cross-border transfer service MoneyGram for $1.2 billion, after seemingly winning a fierce bidding war. That deal is very much separate to this arrangement with First Data, but it shows that, in today’s era, China’s top tech firms are more active in the American market than ever before.
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