WorldFirst faces challenges in China's third-party payment market

Updated 2018-05-04 15:14:05

(ECNS) -- The international foreign exchange service provider WorldFirst submitted an application to China's central bank to enter the country's booming third-party payment industry. But insiders think the market landscape dominated by Alipay and WeChat cannot be changed easily.

China's digital payments have sustained rapid growth since 2010. From 2013 to 2017, the number of transactions the payment institutions processed soared from 37.1 billion to 319.3 billion, and the amount increased from 18 trillion yuan to 169 trillion yuan.

In late March, the People's Bank of China laid out rules for foreign-invested payment firms over market access and supervision in a bid to open up its payment service market. These firms are required to have secure, regulated transaction and recovery systems in China with the capacity of processing payment services individually, according to the PBOC.

Insiders said foreign firms may face great challenges in terms of user acquisition and profit margin as China's third-party payment market is well-developed now. The third-party payment service providers usually charge users a fee of less than 0.5 percent of the transaction, but their foreign counterparts charge around 1.5 to 2 percent. However, the foreign competitors may enjoy advantages in cross-border payment.

Yin Zhentao with the Institute of Finance and Banking at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said foreign companies can encourage competition in the market and inject new vitality.

While welcoming the move to open up the market, Dong Ximiao, a researcher at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said the market landscape cannot be changed in the short term.

"The domestic non-bank payment operators have decreased fees to such a low level that it remains a question if foreign firms can survive in such a competitive environment", said Dong.

China's mobile payment apps are expanding their reach in the global market as Internet giants such as Alibaba and Tencent seek to promote their e-payment tools overseas, Xinhua reported in March. Tencent's Wechat Pay has been used in 20 countries and regions including Japan and the Republic of Korea, while Alipay offers payment options for shopping, transport and sightseeing in 38 countries and regions.

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