In a new, recent round of investment, Alibaba’s Ant Financial raised an additional $14 billion in funding. This further cements Ant Financial’s position as the most valuable fintech firm in the world. Ant Financial’s valuation is estimated at $150 billion. This valuation puts Ant Financial ahead of not only other fintech firms, but also more traditional financial firms. Fortune recently pointed out that companies like American Express, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley “only” have valuations of $87 billion, $88 billion, and $92 billion respectively.
At $150 billion, Ant Financial’s valuation far surpasses that of American Express, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley
It’s clear that, at this point, expanding the reach of its mobile payments platform, Alipay, globally is one of the primary goals of Ant Financial. The market in China is pretty saturated already, with Alipay controlling 54 percent of China’s mobile payments market. Alipay, and its main competitor Tencent’s WeChat Pay, spent 2017 focusing on catering to the needs of Chinese outbound tourists. These efforts primarily took the form of new partnerships with banks, fintech firms, retailers, and governments to make their mobile payments platforms usable by Chinese tourists in retail settings all over the world.
Still, there is still substantial work to be done to make Alipay and other Chinese mobile payments platforms more successful in regards to Chinese tourism. The problem is not consumer adoption, as a good chunk of Chinese tourists are already using Alipay. Rather, the problem is simply adoption on the merchant side.
Alipay is already popular with Chinese tourists, but adoption by Western merchants is lagging
Neighboring destinations like Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand already have relatively high rates of merchant adoption. In Europe and North America, however, the platform still isn’t useful outside of some major retailers, airports, and tourist sites. Nonetheless, it seems likely, if not inevitable, that with the number of outbound Chinese tourists continuously on the rise, the number of merchants that accept Alipay and other mobile payments platforms, both big and small, will increase.
Whether Alipay ever intends to extend its user base outside of China in any meaningful way remains to be seen.
Alipay may not yet be catering to non-Chinese consumers, but the company has attracted substantial financial investment from outside of China
While Alipay is available internationally, it’s still a largely “domestically-oriented” project, in that Ant Financial hasn’t made much of an effort to popularize the platform for use by users without Chinese bank accounts. It’s understandable given that China has by far the largest mobile payments market, with total mobile payments transaction volume in China surpassing $12 trillion in 2017.
Still, this latest round of funding underscores how internationalized Ant Financial is becoming. Among the investors that participated were GIC Pte., a sovereign wealth fund established by the government of Singapore; Temasek Holdings Pte, a private holding company also owned by the government of Singapore; Canada Pension Plan Investment Board; Warburg Pincus, a New York City-based private equity firm; and Silver Lake Partners, based in California.
Of course, the Ant Financial isn’t only involved in the mobile payments industry. The company has a wide range of consumer investment products that are becoming increasingly popular. Such products could prove to be yet another lucrative pillar of Alibaba’s retail and fintech empire.