Banking & Finance

UK’s WorldFirst set to be first foreign firm allowed into China’s payment services industry

The company could get its licence to operate in the city of Shanghai imminently, according to a senior city official

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 9:21pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 9:21pm

UK payment services provider WorldFirst could get a licence to operate in the Chinese city of Shanghai imminently, a local official said, making it the first foreign company to be allowed into China’s payments business as the country pushes ahead with the opening of its financial sector.

Zheng Yang, the director of the Shanghai Financial Services Office, said on the sidelines of the Lujiazui financial forum in the city on Friday that the authorities had already asked WorldFirst to provide supporting documents for its earlier application.

WorldFirst said it is hopeful of a positive outcome from its application, but declined further comment. It had initially applied last month to the People’s Bank of China – the central bank, which oversees the payments industry.

China has embarked on a major opening of its financial markets, including allowing foreign investors to take maximum 51 per cent equity stakes in brokerages and life insurers, as concerns increase over protectionism and trade frictions. It is also pushing ahead with plans to allow access to the booming payment services industry.

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On Thursday, central bank governor Yi Gang reiterated Beijing’s ongoing support for Shanghai to act as a front runner for financial liberalisation. The city is working with a number of foreign institutions to further boost the local market through setting up new entities or expanding existing businesses, Zheng said.

In addition to World First, the Shanghai government has also held talks with US payment giant PayPal, Zheng said.

PayPal said on Friday it had already submitted an application for a local licence, adding that its cross-border trade offering would bring added value for Chinese users.

WorldFirst said at the time of its initial announcement that a licence would enable it to go further in supporting trade between small businesses in China and the rest of the world. It has been working with Chinese businesses that trade globally since 2013.