China Payments Research

China's banks have lost significant market share to fintech companies like Ant Finance and Tencent, especially in the mobile payment space, which the fintech companies have used as a basis to move into other market segments such as online lending. Banks have been distanced from consumers and there are concerns that people do not need banks any more. Are things really that bad?

On April 7th, 2018, Alibaba announced an investment of 4.5 billion RMB (7.1 bn USD) to Huitongda, showing the intention to develop business in the rural areas of China. They will cooperate on supply source, logistics, technology and life services.

In 2017, the Chinese smartphone market saw its first ever decline, with -4% YoY growth in smartphone shipments and -4.9% YoY growth in smartphone sales.

On February 1st, Alibaba and Ant Finance jointly announced that, according to their strategic agreement signed in 2014, Alibaba will acquire 33% of Ant Finance’s shares through one of Alibaba’s subsidiaries.

In China, bar code payments (including QR codes) dominate the mobile payment market. Using a bar code to pay is easy, but comes with risks. In 2017, about RMB 90 million ($14 million) was stolen due to fraud. On December 25th, 2017, the People’s Bank of China (the PBOC) released new regulation to standardize bar code payments. The regulation will come into effect from April 1st, 2018.

On December 11th, 2017, China Union Pay (CUP), together with over 30 commercial banks and payment institutions, launched a new version of its mobile payment APP, QuickPass (云闪付), starting a new battle in the mobile payment industry.

The People’s Bank of China (the PBOC) started issuing the Payment Business License since May 2011 to non-banking institutions. Up until March 2015, the PBOC had issued 270 payment licenses.

Ant Financial is well established as the largest fintech in China. These past two years have been excellent for the company as they reached 450 million users with an average expenditure of 16,000 RMB through the Alipay platform. They recently started to make use of Alibaba’s acquired controlling stake of company Lazada in Singapore, which has given them access to most of the SEA market. In addition, Ant bid for Moneygram in the United States, and funded bike sharing service Gobee.bike’s launch in Hong Kong (being the first bike sharing company of the kind launched in HK). However, the important question here is: what awaits the company in the near future? Three words. Diversification, internationalisation and experimentation.

QR-codes have been a boon for China's 3rd Party Payment providers, but due to QR-Code standardization and the launch of China's Online Settlement Platform for Non-Bank Payment Institutions, more colloquially known just as Wanglian, QR-codes could now be the payment giants' biggest challenge.

On the last day of March 2017, Wang’lian (Internet Payment Union) started its trial operation after one year of preparation. The first group of companies that have joined the platform include: Wechat Pay, China Merchants Bank, Bank of China, and Chinabank Payment. The platform will effectively cut the 3rd party payment networks of Ant Financial and Tencent, and is likely the most important payment industry development this year, and it may not bode well for China's dominant digital payment companies. 

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