HKMA approves digital wallets for Hong Kong

Chinese internet giants Ant Financial and Tencent Holdings have been given the green light to introduce digital wallets for customers in Hong Kong.

Only a month ago, China’s central bank banned people who did not have a mainland bank card from storing money in Ant Financial’s Alipay or Tencent’s WeChat Pay accounts.

However, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has given its approval for Hong Kong users to store money in the local version of their online wallets.

Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, which is trying to expand globally, is using Hong Kong as a test lab, says its VP of international business, Sabrina Peng.

With more than 1 million users in Hong Kong, Alipay has signed up more than 6000 merchants, from Ocean Park to Starbucks.

“Hong Kong is extremely important for us,” says Peng. “With this licence, it will be much easier for us to service Hong Kong residents in areas of payment and lifestyle.”

Previously, Hong Kong shoppers could buy pre-paid Alipay cards from convenience stores, convert their cash into yuan, then deposit in Chinese online accounts.

The HKMA has granted five stored-value licences, allowing cards or online accounts to be loaded directly in local currency. The other licences have been allocated to HKT Payment, Money Data and TNG (Asia).

Ant Financial is controlled by Alibaba Group Holding co-founder Jack Ma. Its Alipay service is accepted by more than 70,000 offline retailers in more than 70 countries and regions.

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