A look at the key players and relationships in China’s mobile payments space
By the end of 2012, there were more than 1.1 billion mobile phone users, and 360 million smartphone users in China representing both strong mobile phone penetration as well as a significant increase in smartphone penetration. With smartphones in the hands of more Chinese consumers, the mobile payment industry in China is nearing its watershed moment – as consumers increasingly use their mobile phones not only as communication devices, but payment tools.
China is already the second largest economy in the world, however, RMB has really not been fully accepted as a payment currency internationally, which most view as a prerequisite to 'RMB internationalization'.
On July 6th, People’s Bank of China (PBOC) issued 27 third party payment licenses to 27 companies bringing the total of 3rd party payment licenses up to 250. What catches our attention this time is the internet giants Baidu and Sina have both obtained licenses and will focus on online payment and mobile payment as their business scope and likely planning to leverage their huge existing user base.
According to the specific targets for China’s EMV migration set by the PBOC, from January 1st 2015, all RMB settlement cards issued in economically advanced regions should be in the form of financial IC cards; most banks have sped up the issuance of financial IC cards since 2012.
By the end of 2012, the total circulation of IC cards exceed 100 million, growing by 320%, and right now 98% of total POS terminals and 96% of ATMs in the market have already been upgrade to support the financial IC cards. It is expected that the total number of financial IC cards in China will hit 200 million in 2013 and continuously surge to 600 million by the end of 2015.
Recently, Google managed to beat its rivals including Apple and Facebook to buy Waze, an Israeli mobile-navigation startup. Google will pay for more than $1 billion for this relatively unknown company. Similarly in China. One month ago, Alibaba, a global B2B giant, invested about $3 billion into Amap, China’s leading map and local based services provider which made Alibaba Amap’s biggest shareholder. Other China’s internet giants, Tencent and Baidu have also been focusing on their mobile map offerings.
According to China Mobile, China’s largest mobile network operator, its monthly mobile payment transaction value, for the first time, exceeded 10 billion RMB, reaching 11 billion in May – even larger than the total transaction value of 2011.
Since China Mobile launched its mobile payment business in 2009, the number of transaction has rocketed at a staggering rate and it is expected that by the end of 2013 the total transaction value will hit 100 billion RMB. In the future, China Mobile will emphasize more on product innovation and customer services to reinforce its leading position in China’s mobile payment industry.
From the data released by People’s Bank of China for the first quarter 2013, the transaction volume of bankcards has reached to 100.27 trillion RMB, which is a 7.7% increase from the first quarter in 2012. The accumulated credit card issuance reached 343 million, which gives a credit card holding per capita is 0.26.
According to PBOC, at the end of 2013 Q1, China’s bankcard consumption transaction volume and value rose rapidly by 44% and 60%, respectively. Interbank transactions made up the majority of total transaction volume and value – accounting for 56% and 77%, respectively. At the end of 2013 Q1, the total circulation of bankcard in China reached 3.6 billion, increasing by 19% year-on-year, with 3.3 billion debit cards and 343 million credit cards. The average bankcard consumption per person increased by 60% to 4900 RMB.
According to iResearch, the total transaction value of China’s 3rd party online payment in 2013 Q, for the first time, declined slightly from last quarter’s 1,065 billion to 1,018 billion, -4.4% quarter-on-quarter. After the staggering growth over the last ten years, China’s 3rd party online payment market has entered a more mature stage of development. This dip largely resulted from the increasing commoditized and homogenous products and services – 3rd party players need more innovative products to improve their services and boost their revenue in the future.
Alipay is still the biggest 3rd party player, accounting for 48% market share, followed by China UnionPay with 20% market share.
Recently, China UnionPay (CUP) and Xinhua News Agency jointly released the Xinhua • CUP Bankcard Consumer Confidence Index (BCCI) for March 2013. It shows that the BCCI is currently at 87.20, growing by 1% month-to-month and 0.43% year-on-year. Generally, the more consumption expenditure on non-necessities, the better macroeconomic situation and personal income reflected, and the more optimism consumers hold towards the future economic situation and personal income.
Based on the transaction information of bankcard consumption by urban residents, this BCCI reflects the confidence level of the consumers towards macro-economy by analyzing the changes to the structure of the bankcard consumption expenditure (mainly the change in the proportion of non-necessities to total consumption amount). Chinese government’s further push on domestic consumption will continue to drive the steady growth of BCCI.
According to Beijing’s government, the total transaction value of e-commerce in Beijing, one of biggest cities in China, grew by 45% to 550 billion RMB in 2012. Beijing’s e-commerce market is characterized by its high transaction volume, which has prompted half of China's top 10 e-commerce companies set up headquarters in Beijing in often in one of the two national e-commerce industry zones which attract a great number of small and medium e-commerce firms. Beijing’s government expects that its e-commerce transaction value will grow at 22% CAGR and hit 1 trillion RMB in 2015, which will account for 60% of Beijing’s GDP.
Recently, Alipay, China’s largest third-party payment company, released its sound wave payment mobile product, which is the first time that “sound payments” have been commercialized in China. Customers can now pay for goods from the vending machines deployed by Alipay in Beijing’s subway through the sound wave payment.
Last month, China Mobile, the biggest mobile network operator (MNO) in China, and China UnionPay (CUP) unveiled their latest mobile payment product – “Mobile Wallet”- at MWC 2013 (Mobile Word Congress, the world’s premier mobile industry event).
In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal wrote about how although mobile payments are slow to take off in China, telephone or 'fixed-line' payments are actually doing quite well and actually hugely dwarfs mobile payments. When you consider the history of the 5 major banks and their alignment with particular sectors, it's no surprise that the Agricultural Bank of China would be leveraging this kind of business model, but what is interesting is the way that the model completely avoids mobile payments. It's almost as if the bank (industry?) in China is saying 'ok, so no standards on mobile, we'll innovate with what we have.' Which is actually not tremendously different that what we're seeing in other markets where the adoption of a consistent mobile payments standard seems inconsistent at best...