Jack Ma’s Ant Financial shows global ambitions once again with move into Thailand

By  for TechInAsia

Jack Ma’s Ant Financial, which runs China’s top mobile wallet app, today announced it has invested in a major fintech company in Thailand. It’s the first ever investment in Thailand by the Chinese firm, which is a spin-off from online shopping titan Alibaba.

Ant Financial now has a stake in Ascend Money, which along with Thailand operates in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia. The financial details are not disclosed.

Billionaires unite

“Our goal is to provide innovative financial services to over one hundred million customers and [small businesses] in Thailand and Southeast Asia by 2020,” said Ascend Group CEO Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa in a statement. “Our partnership with Ant will help accelerate innovative financial services and platforms, enabling a strong financial services ecosystem.”

Many of its services are aimed at the large number of Southeast Asian citizens who are “unbanked” – have no bank account and who might be denied some financial services by traditional banks.

Jack Ma, Alibaba

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma is China’s second richest individual – and its wealthiest tech boss. Photo modified by Tech in Asia; original photo credit: UN Climate Change.

“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,” Douglas Feagin, Ant Financial’s senior vice president.

The deal sees Jack Ma, China’s wealthiest tech boss with a net worth of just over US$28 billion, joining hands with Suphachai Chearavanont, the son of Thailand’s richest person. His father founded telecoms conglomerate True. Ascend is a spin-off from True.

The Thai company does payments under the TrueMoney brand and online lending under the Ascend Nano name.

Ant Financial, which serves around 450 million users on China’s Alipay app, has previously invested in India’s Paytm, an online store and payments service not too dissimilar from its own Chinese app. It more recently threw cash at one of Singapore’s top-funded startups.

First appeared at TIA