Ant Financial, the financial services arm of Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba, has bought a stake in Thailand-based mobile money outfit Ascend, continuing its aggressive international expansion into new markets.
Operating under the TrueMoney brand for payments and Ascend Nano for lending, the Thai company already operates in six countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. Through its mobile wallet and agent network, the company currently provides payment services such as domestic and international remittance, bill payment, top up services, online and offline payments and payroll services.
Under the partnership with Ant Financial, the firm plans to expand into mainstream banking, with future services including lending, insurance and investment.
Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, CEO of Ascend Group, believes the partnership will enable the firm to enjoy exponential growth. “Our goal is to provide innovative financial services to over one hundred million customers and SMEs in Thailand and Southeast Asia by 2020," he says. "Our partnership with Ant will help accelerate innovative financial services and platforms, enabling a strong financial services ecosystem.”
Ascend Money is Ant Financial’s first partner in Southeast Asia and second globally after Paytm in India. The Chinese company, which raised a whopping $4.5 billion in a series B funding round in April, has set itself a target of reaching two billion users globally by 2020. To this end, the firm is working with dozens of global payment partners, including Concardis, Ingenico, Wirecard and Zapper in Europe, First Data and Verifone in North America, Paysbuy and Counter Services in Southeast Asia, Recruit in Japan and KICC and ICB in Korea.
“Ant Financial is setting its footprint worldwide, not only to provide services for its Chinese users, but to promote equal access to financial services globally,” says Douglas Feagin, Ant Financial SVP. “Partnerships are vital for Ant Financial’s growth and we want to work alongside companies around the world who share our missions.”