Ant Group Readies Global Expansion Plans After Emerging From Crackdown

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Alibaba fintech affiliate Ant Group readies global expansion plans as it emerges from wide-ranging two-year regulatory crackdown

Ant Group has announced a global expansion plan based out of a new office in Singapore, in the latest sign that the company is moving into growth mode following a two-year regulatory crackdown in China that targeted it and other tech giants.

The company, the fintech affiliate of Alibaba Group, said in September it would set up an office in Singapore that would include the headquarters of Ant International, and would focus on the international business and tech markets.

The firm said at its Voyager Conference in Singapore on Tuesday that a key focus is the expansion of Alipay+, its cross-border mobile retail payment service.

The app currently connects more than 88 million merchants to 1.5 billion user accounts on more than 25 e-wallets and banking apps in 57 countries and regions, Ant Group said.

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Image credit: Ant Group

Cross-border retail payments

In September Ant Group said Alipay+ had expanded into South Korea, allowing tourists to use digital payment apps in the Alipay+ network, including the mainland China and Hong Kong versions of the app, to pay at shops and restaurants in South Korea by scanning the QR codes of local e-wallet ZeroPay.

The company earlier this year added similar arrangements with public QR code systems in Malaysia and Singapore.

Ant Group also announced a merchant payment service called Antom, a platform for SME cross-border trade called WorldFirst and a Singapore-based digital wholesale bank called ANEXT Bank.

In July China’s central bank handed the company a 7.123 billion yuan ($984m, £800m) fine over issues of corporate governance, financial consumer protection, and its payment and settlement business.

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Image credit: Ant Group

Expansion plans

The fine marked the conclusion to the investigation the bank started in November 2020 and was seen as part of the Chinese government’s move to normalise the governance of the country’s tech sector after a wide-ranging crackdown that lasted for more than two years.

Ant had planned a dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong in late 2020 but this was called off at the last minute.

If the company decides to move ahead with IPO plans it would now be likely to be valued at significantly less than the $300bn valuation it was aiming for in 2020.

Founder Jack Ma said in January he would cede control of Ant Group as part of negotiations with regulators.

Affiliate Alibaba has growth plans of its own that have centred on a restructure that is to split the company into multiple independent units, some of which are expected to pursue market listings or other means of fundraising.