Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of China’s Alibaba, has seen its consumer lending business reach 600 billion yuan ($95 billion) even as the company faces a stricter environment for securitizing loans in its home country of China.
According to news from Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, Ant Financial’s lending division, which provides loans to consumers through its Huabei and Jiebei units, has doubled since the start of 2017 until March 2018. The uptick in consumer lending comes as the Chinese government is lowering quotas for new asset-backed securities that enable these loans to be issued. The loans can have annual interest rates that are as much as 15 percent, although a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg the interest rates on the loans are typically less than 15 percent.
Recently, regulators in China has been making it tougher for online companies to create asset-backed securities. The government is going after the 11 trillion yuan online cash microlending market that has been criticized because the loans on offer usually come with high interest rates.
Ant Financial sold just 10.7 billion yuan of asset-backed securities so far this year, which compares to 31 billion yuan in the first quarter of 2017. In all of 2017, the company issued 243 billion yuan of asset-backed securities, Bloomberg noted. Its Huabei unit offers revolving credit lines for Alipay users who need spare cash. Customers borrow, on average, 700 yuan each month.
Meanwhile, Jiebei, Ant Financial’s short-term consumer lending unit, hands out, on average, approximately 3,000 yuan each month, one person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The report noted that Ant’s loans have helped drive consumption on the online shopping platforms owned by Alibaba. However, a slowdown in loan growth could negatively impact Chinese consumers’ ability to purchase everything from electronics to everyday purchases, which could result in lower overall sales for Alibaba.