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.

NPAs (non-performing assets) as a percentage of total banking credit in the Indian banking industry has increased to nearly 5% in 2015. This has essentially come from the public sector (state owned) banks (PSBs). 90% of the NPAs in the Indian banking industry are attributable to these banks.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget for 2016-17 and while India’s high economic growth rate of 7.6% was a bright spot, banking related allocations grabbed the most attention.

The 11 applicants were given a go ahead last year by the RBI to start payments banking services in the country and are readying to start operations around the middle of this year. This will be the Indian central bank's first tryst with pure play fintech enabled service institutions in the country. This will also be a first for several of the licensees planning to operate in this space.

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. 

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.

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.

“I don’t really care about what are the investment projects on the P2P platform or the borrowers’ details. My attention is more on the investment return, since most of the platform provide guaranteed return rate.”

With an estimated USD 1 trillion worth of capital outflows from Mainland China in 2015, it is clear that a subset of Chinese citizens would rather keep their money outside of China. Following the country’s turbulent stock market and depreciating Yuan, an estimated 100,000+ Mainland Chinese citizens have been venturing out to Hong Kong in order transfer more than the stipulated USD 50,000 outside of China through the means of insurance policies.

The global payments market has seen a variety of challenges that have restricted payment systems from either successfully expanding overseas or gaining significant market share. Samsung Pay seems to have maneuvered itself around many of the challenges that overseas expansion brings, and has taken steps to increase its global merchant acceptance in the US and China for South Korean consumers.

Many commercial partnerships result in a broader pool of knowledge, increased resources and the prospect for rapid market growth. This is certainly the case for India’s largest payment startup Paytm and Alibaba’s cloud computing division Aliyun who have just signed an agreement that should be a tremendous opportunity for both companies.

Last week China’s central bank announced the possibility of launching its own digital currency on its official website. What is behind the government's push to launch a digital currency? Control money outflow? Better monitor cash transactions? 

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.

It will come as no surprise to the avid watchers of the Chinese stock market that China’s start to 2016 has not been a success by any means. The CSI 300 index of blue chip stocks plummeted by 5% on Thursday 7th January, prompting the newly implemented circuit breakers to kick in and suspend trading for 15 minutes in order to remediate market volatility.

A recent announcement from China's central bank, the PBOC, now allows banks to remotely open bank accounts, which was previously not possible - there was at least a bank visit and some paperwork needed. The announcement allows customers to open new accounts via their mobile, which should increase competition significantly between the BAT and traditional banks. 

Numerous Chinese media outlets are reporting on the latest moves by China's regulators to stop any new internet finance company registrations in China. The announcement is a bit vague as is expected from regulators, but indicates that no new fintech business license registrations will be allowed for the foreseeable future. 

The RMB-USD exchange rate has two different values: the onshore value, determined by the PBOC at markets opening, and the offshore value, which is market-driven and used in Hong Kong. These two rates were usually almost identical, until August 2015 when a surprise depreciation by the Chinese central bank caused an even deeper depreciation in the offshore value, with the spread between the two starting to become significant, especially towards the end of the year when the yuan continued to lose value in comparison to the US dollar.

When the Shanghai Stock Market first opened after the New Year’s holiday, everything quickly turned for the worst: a fast, large rout emerged, with the CSI300 Index losing 5 percentage points by 1 am. Then it stopped for 15 minutes, as trades were paused. After the break ended, the index kept going down, down in fact 7% on the previous trading day in just two minutes. At this point negotiations stopped again, but this time for the rest of the day.

China’s Banking Regulation Commission (CBRC) has played with fire long enough, standing on the side and watching the story of online peer-to-peer lending unfold, as it started with a tremendous rise from 2013 to 2014 and to quickly turn into a machine of fraud and risk, potentially damaging countless individuals who were naïve enough to trust this system.

On the 28th of December, China promulgated the next set of mobile payment regulations. Although some of the regulation was expected, how will the rest impact the mobile payment industry development in 2016?

2016 should be the year when finally Apple Pay manages to launch in China, as announced by the Cupertino-based company on its own website and as was already reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier this past autumn. This wasn't really a surprise as Apple had long talked about its China plans for Apple Pay. Less expected, Samsung Pay is also going through the same process and should also launch in 2016.

The 12th of December marked the official announcement by China UnionPay (CUP) of the launch of Cloud QuickPass, a mobile payment solutionbased on NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. Tests had been ongoing since May at franchises like McDonald’s, with the backing of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and builds on the existing QuickPass NFC technology deployed in many of the current CUP point-of-sale terminals around China. 

China’s digital travel landscape is a world in its own. Increasingly, globe-trotting Chinese are turning away from prepaid package tours and becoming more mobile savvy in applications from hotel booking to local entertainment. It is estimated recently by Dianping, a restaurant review and coupon website that Chinese outbound tourists are forecast to spend 250 billion yuan (US$39 billion) on food in 2015, 25% more than in 2014.

Early last month, in a statement released from the Monetary Authority of Macau, Alipay was approved for use in Macau's gaming market a fact confirmed by the industry that now macau residents and/or institutions can have an Alipay account and use it for payments.

As China's economy slows and people push to move their money abroad for better returns, the government is now trying its best to keep money at home. The PBOC has estimated that outflows of the China’s foreign reserve attributed to illegal underground banks amounted to about 800 billion yuan ($125 billion) from April to October this year. Chinese police launched a series of crackdown on underground banking and illegal foreign-exchange network to continue the anti-corruption campaign. But will it matter? Can they actually stem the flow of money out?

After nearly a year and a half from its US release date and after long preparations and cancelled announcements it finally looks like Apple will be releasing its mobile payment system, Apple Pay, in China somewhere in Q1 of 2016, possibly before Chinese New Year rolls around.

In a world where everything seems to be made in China there are still markets where China is no where to be found, but Western companies still dominate. One of those is the cashless payments market, with giant companies such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express owning the market for bank cards and payment networks.

On November 18th, Baidu announced that it was finalising its private bank plans and would be setting up a banking venture with China Citic bank called Baixin. This was the last of the 3 BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) to setup a private bank and was widely expected, although potentially a bit later than originally thought.

China officially dropped its one-child policy by announcing that all married couples would be allowed to have two children. The move had an impact on markets at home and abroad. Shares in companies that make baby products such as diapers, prams and infant formula were up on the day of announcement while shares of popular contraception brand fell. This economic wave travelled as far as New Zealand where the currency of the dairy exporting country surged. The market reacts for a good reason. It is estimated that the relaxed controls would result in an extra 3 million to 6 million babies born annually in the five-year period starting in 2017.

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