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Ant Group’s Alipay+: Serving visa-free, Lunar New Year wanderers.

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TLDR:
– Ant Group has expanded its cross-border mobile payment service, Alipay+, to cover tens of millions of stores in Asia and Europe.
– The expansion is in response to China’s visa-free policy and an expected increase in Lunar New Year travel.

Chinese fintech giant Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, has announced the expansion of its cross-border mobile payment service, Alipay+, to cater to the visa-free travel and anticipated Lunar New Year travel boom in China. The service now covers over 100,000 stores in Thailand and Dubai, as well as 10,000 taxis in 12 Italian regions. Alipay+ is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses accept payments from travelers using their local electronic wallets. The service supports 25 partner e-wallets and bank apps, covering more than 88 million merchants in 57 markets. This expansion comes as China introduces new visa-free policies to promote tourism and business ties, allowing travelers from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia to stay in China without a visa for 15 days until November 2024. Additionally, starting from Lunar New Year’s Eve, China and Singapore will mutually allow each other’s citizens to travel without a visa for a month. Malaysia and Thailand have also waived visa requirements for Chinese travelers for up to 30 days. Despite the expected increase in Chinese travelers during the Lunar New Year, the numbers are projected to remain below pre-pandemic levels due to economic challenges. Ant Group has faced regulatory pressures in the past, but recent developments, such as founder Jack Ma’s reduced voting rights and the central bank’s confirmation that Alipay no longer has a controller, suggest that regulatory pressures may be easing. This could potentially pave the way for Ant Group to resume its initial public offering, which was put on hold after Ma’s controversial speech on financial regulation. Furthermore, the central bank and the government of Zhejiang province are reportedly preparing to grant an Ant-affiliated agency a “personal credit information collection license,” allowing Ant to expand its credit business.

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