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AliPay to launch local wallet for Singapore

SINGAPORE — Alipay — the mobile payment company owned by Chinese fintech giants Ant Financial — is looking to launch a local e-wallet for Singapore consumers, it said on Tuesday (Aug 22).

Reuters file photo

Reuters file photo

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SINGAPORE — Alipay — the mobile payment company owned by Chinese fintech giants Ant Financial — is looking to launch a local e-wallet for Singapore consumers, it said on Tuesday (Aug 22).

The announcement came as it expanded its payment service app here targeting local merchants and Chinese nationals living in the Republic. 

It follows tie-ups with taxi operators Prime Taxis, in March, and ComfortDelGro, last month, offering Alipay to passengers. 

Working with Singapore-based digital payment solutions provider CCPay, Alipay has already signed up about 300 merchants in Chinatown to the payment app which is targeting Chinese nationals living in Singapore, as well as Chinese tourists. At Tuesday's launch, Mr Melvin Ooi — Alipay’s country manager for Singapore, Sri Lanka and the Maldives — said: “We will soon offer a local wallet for Singapore consumers.” 

He did not provide a timeline for when this would happen but Ant Financial, the parent company of Alipay, told TODAY: “Ant Financial is still looking for partners here.” 

Ant Financial is controlled by Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma. For now, the Alipay wallet is linked to China-based bank accounts, credit cards or stored value cards. 

To use the service, consumers need to scan the QR codes provided by the retailer with their smartphones. 

Alipay has already rolled out its services to more than 20,000 acceptance points here, of which 17,000 are taxis. Besides merchants in the Chinatown area, Alipay plans to attract merchants in other shopping areas in town and beyond, to the heartlands.

Mr Ooi said transaction fees that merchants have to pay will be minimal, starting from zero per cent to rates that are “very competitive”. 

The company is also offering free installation and set-up for merchants, added Mr Jed Huang, founder of CC Financial Services, owner of CCPay — Alipay’s local partner.

He said: “With Alipay, Chinese visitors will find it very convenient to do their shopping, dining and other activities in Singapore. This collaboration with CCPay will provide a platform for merchants to facilitate safe, fast and cashless payments for Chinese tourists in Singapore.”

According to the Singapore Tourism Board’s preliminary estimates, more than 2.8 million Chinese tourists visited Singapore last year, Mr Ooi noted. They were the biggest spending visitors, chalking up more than S$3 billion in tourist receipts. 

During the National Day Rally on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that Singapore trails behind other cities, including those in China, when it comes to electronic payments.

Analysts said Alipay’s expansion in Singapore is very significant, as it is a global market leader with the “know-how” to roll out electronic payments successfully. 

Mr Michael Yeo, research manager at IDC Financial Insights said that initially, Alipay will “likely use aggressive discounts and promotions” to acquire users. 

“If their initial ventures are successful, they will then look to further build partnerships and perhaps how they could possibly build up the online to offline infrastructure.  

However, Mr Chia Tek Yew, head of Financial Services Advisory at KPMG Singapore, said that if PayNow, a peer-to-peer funds transfer service, is rolled out to merchants, it would eliminate the need for e-wallets such as Alipay. This new service enables customers of seven banks here to send and receive money instantly using their mobile phone numbers or NRIC/FIN.  

“The recent launch of PayNow is targeted at the reduction of cash and cheques for peer-to-peer payments,” he said. “The next step in driving a cashless Singapore would be for PayNow to be extended to merchant payments. Once that is rolled out, local residents will no longer need to have e-wallets for cashless payments.”

Banks echoed this same principle, saying interoperable solutions are what is needed for the cashless movement to really take off. Mr Pranav Seth, Head of E-Business, Business Transformation and Fintech and Innovation Group, at OCBC Bank, said Singapore consumers already have an array of cashless payment options.

“To make going cashless a success in Singapore, we welcome solutions that are interoperable across banks, have universal acceptance and are easy to on-board and use without causing any confusion to consumers,” he said.

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