China Payments Research

China’s fintech sector has enjoyed significant development, but has recently been constrained by more active regulators who have increased their rate of regulation to try and stay ahead of the industry development. After two years of planning and industry development, a public-private body was established by the People's Bank of China - the National Internet Finance Association.

Tencent was reporting its quarterly earnings on March 17th and for the first time the company disclosed its WeChat Wallet fees that the company pays to partner banks. Tencent CEO Pony Ma said the fees are 0.1% of each transaction and totalled more than RMB 300 million in January.

China’s mobile giant Huawei held a signing ceremony in Huawei's Shenzhen headquarters with Bank of China to co-develop next mobile based payment system Huawei Pay. This announcement was just released after Apple Pay and Samsung Pay claimed to make its entry in to China.

Recently a lawyer in China caused a stir in the payments industry by filing a complaint with the People's Bank of China (PBOC) on Meituan, China’s major O2O platform which is worth tens of USD billions. The complaint alleged that Meituan is engaged in payment settlement without having a required payments license.

For many years, the Chinese government has encouraged cross-border investment, both to support the domestic stock markets, but to also give domestic investors more choice in investment options and products. One such program was the QDLP program or Qualified Domestic Limited Partner scheme. Due to the renewed focus on controlling outflows, this program is now stopped. 

Although UnionPay is known for its control of the domestic Chinese payment market, it also has over 50 million cards issued overseas. So in other words, a China UnionPay branded card issued by a foreign bank in a foreign country and a foreign currency. In its international push, UnionPay would like its cards to be used both online and offline. Foreign cardholders are increasingly using them for paying at POS and for ATM cash withdrawal, however, there was never a compelling case to use UnionPay cards online, where established card brands like Visa and MasterCard dominate.

When talking about O2O (Online to Offline), we should keep in mind that the key to the O2O business success lays in the hardware and acceptance support from offline merchants. Eventually, it’s up to merchant’s willingness to accept a new digital payment method or not. Beyond the merchant fee and technology required, the key criteria for a merchant to decide is the user base of a particular payment method.

A tightening regulatory policy towards third party payment has driven China's payment industry into a period of consolidation and M&A. For some, this has been a great opportunity to get into other segments of the market like O2O (online to offline). We saw this in 2015 when Wanda bought 99bill. This time it's Lakala with a help of with a company called ‘Tibet Tourism.’

In January 2015, UnionPay Smart, a China UnionPay company specialized in business intelligence, customer profiling and online marketing, announced an agreement with Isobar China, a part of global Top-5 advertising conglomerate Dentsu Aegis. Together with Isobar China, UnionPay Smart will build a data management platform (DMP) targeting online advertising.

In January 2015, Chang-Go, one of the more successful prepaid card companies operating in China, was ordered by China's Central Bank to stop operations. According to the bank, the company was not giving customers refunds in a full manner, misappropriated reserve deposits and even forged financial documents.

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