Mobile payments

Tencent’s WeChat testing money market fund and score system in bid to catch up with Alipay

  • Company seeks to expand its payment services to help diversify business in the face of uncertainties in gaming segment
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 6:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 6:02am

WeChat Pay has launched a beta version of a new money-market fund as its parent Tencent Holdings seeks to expand its payment services to help diversify business in the face of uncertainties in its gaming segment.

Tencent’s Lingqiantong, similar to Alibaba’s Yu'e Bao, was released in beta version last Friday, inviting users to test the platform’s functions. The new features – which allow users to earn interest from their balance as well as transfer payments to pay bills, send virtual red packets and pay off credit card debts – were rolled out on a test basis to a small pool of users in September last year.

The move is seen as an attempt by WeChat Pay to catch up with Alipay, which operates the world biggest money-fund market Yu'e Bao and is the country’s third-party payments provider.

Tencent last week posted better-than-expected US$3.4 billion third quarter profit on social advertising and investment gains, which helped offset slower growth in its games segment which has faced uncertainly due to government regulation.

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WeChat Pay first started competing directly with Yu'e Bao in 2014 when Tencent introduced its own online wealth management service Licaitong, a platform offering a range of financial products for investors. It later added pension funds and at the end of the third quarter its aggregated customer assets surpassed 500 billion yuan (US$72 billion), according to Tencent.

Unlike Yu’e Bao, Licaitong initially did not pay interest on the balance held by users. However, this perceived gap will be filled by Lingqiantong.

Tencent also recently began a trial of its personal credit scoring system, ranking users based on their social, security, wealth, trust and consumption metrics on the dominant messaging app WeChat. The system is similar to the Sesame Credit programme run by Ant Financial Services, which is the operator of Alipay.

WeChat Pay and Alipay account for over 90 per cent of China’s domestic mobile payments market. Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post, declined to comment on the matter when contacted.

By leveraging the billion-plus active users on WeChat, Tencent has been able to expand its fintech business that includes payment services, wealth management, micro loans and insurance, as well as cross-border transactions.

In October 2018, Tencent launched the first cross border mobile payment service, allowing WeChat Pay Hong Kong users to conduct yuan-denominated transactions in mainland China using Hong Kong dollars.

Tencent posts better-than-expected US$3.4b third quarter profit

Tencent last week posted 69 per cent third year-on-year revenue growth for the third quarter in its “other business” segment, which includes payment services and cloud computing.

“Our daily transaction volume increased over 50 per cent year on year, within which our offline daily commercial payment transaction volume grew 200 per cent year on year,” said Tencent, which posted better-than-expected US$3.4 billion third quarter profit social advertising and investment gains.