Chinese online finance giant Ant Financial, headed by billionaire Jack Ma, is seeing an uptick in the desire for credit among small and medium businesses despite the economic slowdown in China, Bloomberg reported on Thursday (Oct. 17).
Chairman Eric Jing told Bloomberg that the private sector continues to be healthy due to new technology like mobile payments and digital loans.
“We’re really focused on the under-served — the little guy — and they’re very resilient,” Jing told Bloomberg Television in Hangzhou. “They’re still experiencing a very strong growth. That demonstrates the domestic consumption potential of China.”
Consumer and business lending crumbled last year, prompting regulators to lower the cost of borrowing. Despite those efforts, the uptick has been slow.
The People’s Bank of China released data in September that showed 2.27 trillion yuan ($321 billion) in aggregate financing.
The tech unicorn Ant Financial has grown into a $150 billion enterprise under Ma’s leadership. Through the launch of Alipay in 2004 to boost eCommerce platform Alibaba, the company has moved into lending, insurance and credit-scoring. Its 900 million-plus user base offers Ant “deep insight into the Chinese economy.”
Ma, who announced retirement plans in September, played a huge role in the ongoing maturation of the Chinese eCommerce sector, an effort that is not only paying dividends for that massive country, but inspiring similar moves in other parts of Asia and beyond. Indeed, as Ma steps aside, one of the company’s major challenges will be finding new areas of growth as China’s eCommerce sector matures, analysts said.
Alibaba’s most recent financials help paint a picture of what Ma built as the world watched not only the growth of China’s middle class (to say nothing of its new generation of luxury consumers), but the mobile payment and commerce technologies designed to better serve and reflect their consumer desires.