China’s mobile payments king wants a piece of the world’s biggest consumer market.
Alipay, owned by Jack Ma’s Ant Financial, reached a deal that will let its users shop at four million U.S. merchants served by payments processor First Data Corp., the companies said Monday in a joint statement. The rollout will begin with businesses that use First Data’s Clover products.
“This will open up Alipay to where it’s truly ubiquitous across the United States and hopefully more countries later,” said Souheil Badran, president of Alipay North America. In the U.S., “we decided rather than trying to do it on our own, this is an ecosystem that we’re looking for a partner that can provide scale.”
Alipay and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat Pay dominate the mobile-payments market in China with a combined 90 percent share. Alipay now wants to leverage the millions of Chinese customers who travel abroad by offering them services wherever they go. The firm’s mobile wallet — which can hold cards from American Express Co., Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc., among others — is already accepted by more than 100,000 retailers in 70 international markets, the company said.
The First Data deal will put Alipay in the same league as Apple Pay in terms of acceptance. Apple Inc.’s mobile payments service can be used at 4.5 million locations in the U.S., Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said last week on a call with analysts.
Still, Alipay, which started in 2004 as an online payments processor for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s e-commerce sites, is entering a market that’s much less reliant on mobile transactions than its home country. China’s mobile payments transactions topped 38 trillion yuan ($5.5 trillion) in 2016, triple the previous year, according to Beijing-based IResearch. That compares with $112 billion in the U.S., Forrester Research said.
Alipay is just the latest Chinese payments player looking to make a deeper push abroad. Ant Financial has agreed to pay $1.2 billion for the U.S. money-transfer service MoneyGram International Inc. And China UnionPay Co. is working with U.S. payments networks to develop international standards for mobile payments.
First Data, which was taken public by private-equity giant KKR & Co. in 2015, operates a debit-card network, processes card transactions and provides merchants with fraud detection and data analytics services. The company began a trial run with Alipay at select luxury stores in California and New York in November.
The pilot “showed that it could work with those customers, but it could work on a greater scale,” said Dan Charron, head of First Data’s global business solutions segment. “But you don’t need to look at it as a U.S. or even a North America thing. You can look at it as a global thing.”
First Data shares have climbed 17 percent this year, outpacing the 3.4 percent advance of the 245-company Russell 1000 Financial Services Index. On Monday, the company reported better-than-expected first-quarter revenue of $1.73 billion, fueled by a seven percent increase in transactions at its global business solutions unit.