Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent has invested in Argentinian mobile banking startup Uala, according to a report from Reuters.
Point72 Ventures and George Soros have also invested in the mobile payment company. The startup’s Founder Pierpaolo Barbieri said the Chinese company would help Uala develop its app, among other things. He did not reveal the amount of the investment, but said it would significantly raise the company’s valuation.
There has been a lot of interest from China toward the Latin American region, with companies like Didi Chuxing, Huawei and Baidu all looking for investments in the area.
Tencent said last year that it was going to boost its investments in certain “key areas,” including digital payments. The company competes with Alipay, which is another huge player in the sector.
Tencent’s payment app, WeChat, has more than one billion users in China, and the company has developed in-app services to compete with Google and Apple.
Last year, the company invested $180 million in the financial tech company Nu Pagamentos, which is located in Brazil.
“The idea is that it’s not just money. It’s about learning from their experience in China and in other Asian markets to inform our Latin America strategy,” Barbieri told Reuters. He said his company was approached by Tencent and traveled to China to meet with executives from the company. The investment, he noted, will help to speed up Uala’s plans.
Uala offers users prepaid Mastercards, metro card refills, digital payments and bill payment services. Although there are some regulatory issues in Argentina the company has to deal with, many successful startups have emerged from the region, such as the U.S.-listed MercadoLibre and online travel company Despegar.com.
The country has a large unbanked population, and is seeing a rush of digital finance companies competing with traditional banking institutions.