China will reportedly allow payments company WorldFirst to enter its financial services market, making the U.K.-based company the first foreign firm to do so.
Reports in the South China Morning Post on Friday (June 15) said WorldFirst is about to receive its license to operate in Shanghai, according to Shanghai Financial Services Office director Zheng Yang. He spoke with the publication during the Lujiazui Financial Forum, held in the city on Friday.
According to Yang, WorldFirst has been asked to provide documents to support its previous application to operate in China.
WorldFirst did not elaborate on the pending application but told the publication it is hopeful that the outcome will be positive. The company first submitted its application to the People’s Bank of China last month.
If approved, WorldFirst would become the first foreign company to operate in China’s payments industry as the nation moves to open up the market to overseas competition. Earlier this year, reports in Bloomberg said China’s central bank would begin accepting applications from foreign companies. The government has already provided more than 260 licenses to local companies to operate in the industry, reports noted, and the market — worth $27 trillion — is currently dominated by Alipay and WeChat Pay.
“The domestic market is quite saturated with very strong domestic players, and it is relatively hard for foreign companies to get a piece of the pie,” said Hong Kong economist Iris Pang in an interview with Bloomberg at the time.
SCMP reports noted WorldFirst said it wants to enable small businesses in China to more easily conduct business across borders.
Yang also mentioned that Shanghai officials have been in talks with PayPal, which reportedly also submitted an application in Shanghai to operate. According to earlier reports in Caixin Global, analysts had expected PayPal to be the first foreign firm to secure a payment business license in China.
Businesses that secure a license can set up local units, store client data within China and establish payment infrastructure.