Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial has made its latest aggressive international push this week — with a $200 million investment into a fintech project belonging to Kakao, the $5 billion firm that runs Korea’s dominant messaging service.
Ant Financial — the firm that stands behind both Alipay and Alibaba’s digital banking business — will invest Kakao Pay, a coming-soon fintech application for the popular Korean chat interface.
The deal will allow Ant to proffer financial services through Kakao Pay in Korea.
Kakao Talk — the chat interface — currently is packing a punch with 48 million users and its software installed on 95 percent of the smartphones in Korea. The firm decided last month to split its financial services into a new company which will allow for such services as over-counter payments, peer-to-peer transactions, bill payment and web banking — to start. Eventually, Kakao would also like to offer a full menu of financial services, including loans and financing.
And that expanded experience menu is where Ant's experience is particularly valuable — Ant has done for Alipay in China everything Kakao hopes to do with Kakao Pay in Korea. For its altruism, Ant Financial and Alibaba gain more potential customers for their eCommerce business in Korea as well as giving Chinese nationals an option to use Alipay when they are visiting Korea.
Ant Financial has been doing some serious global buying of late. It has already snapped up U.S.-based MoneyGram for $880 million, it has made recent investments in Ascend Money (Thailand) and Mynt (Philippines), and it holds an equity state in Paytm (India) and M-Daq (Singapore).
So is Alibaba/Ant financial trying to take over the world? Hard to say — but its investments of late certainly would incline one in that direction.