Ant Financial launches blockchain-based remittance service, scrambling for the Hong Kong payment market

In last October, Tencent partnered with EMQ to allow Filipinos in Hong Kong to transfer money back home within 10 minutes for free using its WeChat app.

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AlipayHK, the joint venture between Ant Financial and CK Hutchison, launched a blockchain-based remittance service on Monday, providing a cheaper and faster approach for money transfer to over 180k Filipinos in Hong Kong. Ant Financial claims its blockchain-enabled service is the first of its kind.

Users of AlipayHK will be able to transfer money to users of GCash, the mobile wallet and micropayment arm of Mynt, in the Philippines in a few seconds with much lower transaction fees, as per a press release by Ant Financial.

The Southeast Asian country is the world’s third largest remittance market with US$33 billion of inflows in 2017, according to Standard Chartered, the partner bank supporting this initiative.

“Blockchain technologies need to address data privacy problems, sustainable development, and environmental issues, as well as to serve the public for good,” said Jack Ma at the launch on Monday, “Blockchain technologies won’t and shouldn’t be used to make a fortune overnight, but to solve social problems.”

 

Failed MoneyGram deal

The tie-up with GCash in remittance services is not Ant Financial’s first attempt to tap into that area. In January, the company canceled the $1.2 billion deal to buy MoneyGram, a US money transfer company, citing the failure in winning an approval from the US authorities.

“At the time we wanted to [acquire] MoneyGram and overhaul it to help people all over the world solve this issue. Due to reasons from the US our deal with MoneyGram did not succeed, so I said, ‘Let’s make one better [than MoneyGram]’ that uses the most advanced technology,” Ma said.

 

Rivalry with Tencent continues

In mainland China, Ant Financial’s Alipay is locked up in a brutal competition with Tencent’s WeChat Pay, and in Hong Kong, the rivalry is likely to continue.

In last October, Tencent partnered with EMQ, a Hong Kong fintech startup, to bring a new feature We Remit to its WeChat app, which is China’s largest social networking platform. Users of We Remit can transfer money to the Philippines without paying fees. The money transfer takes up to 10 minutes, according to Max Liu, the co-founder and CEO of EMQ.

The social-networking and gaming giant has also joined hands with MTR, the Mass Transit Railway in Hong Kong to enable a WeChat-based payment option.

In January this year, Ant Financial bolstered its presence in Hong Kong, taking a 20% stake in Hong Kong-based OpenRice, an online dining guide platform which adopts Alipay and AlipayHK as payment options.

Currently, over 20k local retail outlets support AlipayHK for payment, according to the fintech company.

 

Editor: Jason Zheng