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Tencent puts payment app on WeChat

中国日报网 2013-07-04 10:26

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Tencent Holdings is introducing a payment service to the company's popular instant messaging service WeChat. It's also the latest attempt by Tencent to commercialize the application and compete with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.

"We are convinced of the need to bring payment services to wireless platforms," said Martin Lau, president of Tencent. "Although some apps are free of charge for users, the large traffic these products bring in will enable us to sell advertisement slots, an alternative way for us to make a profit."

The Internet giant, based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, will introduce online and offline payment services to an upcoming version of WeChat, it said.

Although Tencent did not reveal the launch date for the new WeChat, a beta version is already available for some developers.

Analysts said Tencent, famous for social and gaming products, is eyeing the e-commerce sector for profit growth as advertising growth flattens. However, the new area is a territory long dominated by Alibaba, the nation's largest Internet company by market capitalization.

Alipay, a third-party payment subsidiary under Alibaba, is the biggest online payment platform by transaction volume.

Pony Ma, chief executive of Tencent, is betting on his company's mobility strength to challenge Alibaba. WeChat's offline payment feature may add pressure to Alipay, which is also trying out off-the-Web payment services.

Transaction volumes of the third-party payment sector exceeded 10 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) last year, said a report by the Payment and Clearing Association of China in late June.

Online payment accounts for nearly 70 percent of the sum. The emerging mobile payment service generated a little more than 181 billion yuan in transaction volume, according to the association.

The rapid growth of the mobile Internet sector plus Tencent's large user population may help the company explore new businesses, including financial services, according to Yu Xiaohui, chief engineer of the China Academy of Telecommunication Research under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

"Mobile Internet is set to become the most desired segment for Chinese Internet companies as the nation is growing to become the second-largest Internet market after the United States," he added.

User numbers for WeChat saw a steady increase since its release in January 2011. The user population exceeded 300 million at the beginning of this year, with users outside the Chinese mainland hitting 70 million, according to Lau.

In addition to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, WeChat's major markets include India, Thailand, Malaysia and Mexico.

WeChat will have at least 400 million users by the end of this year, Bloomberg News reported, citing Alicia Yap, an analyst at Barclays in Hong Kong. WeChat could produce annual revenue of up to 2.16 billion yuan if the app provides gaming and other related services, Yap said.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

About the broadcaster:

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.

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