Tencent seeking to boost WeChat Wallet use in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 1:23pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 10:41pm

Tencent Holdings aims to make its WeChat Wallet mobile payment service available for more Hongkongers in 2017 as it ratchets up competition to win over brick-and-mortar business partners in the city.

Pony Ma Huateng, chairman and chief executive officer of Tencent, said the company is seeking to team up with more retailers in Hong Kong, part of an effort to boost local usage of its WeChat Wallet, a mobile payment service popular with hundreds of millions of users in the mainland.

“Department stores, supermarkets and convenient stores are our top targets,” he told the South China Morning Post at the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Sunday.

SaSa became the first Hong Kong retailer to allow mainlanders to use WeChat Wallet to pay for their purchases via smartphone when it rolled out the service in 2015. But Tencent has been trying to win over Hongkongers who still prefer credit cards to the smartphone-enabled payments.

Ma said the existing exclusive partnership deals inked between Alipay, the mobile payment tool backed by Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding, and some Hong Kong retailers are reasons that have stopped WeChat Wallet’s expansion in Hong Kong.

“But most of the exclusive deals are about to end,” he said.

Both Alibaba and Tencent see Hong Kong as the starting point for their future globalisation in mobile payment.

They are among five companies granted payment licences from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority in August. The licences allow the two companies to offer mobile payment services in Hong Kong’s local currency.

Ma said in a press conference on Friday that competition in mobile payments in the Hong Kong is fiercer than expected, even as the market is relatively new.

“Most of WeChat Wallet’s business in Hong Kong comes from mainland travellers as they are quite comfortable to make digital payment by using smartphones to scan quick respond codes,” he said.

WeChat Wallet offers a wide range of payment-related services in the mainland, from paying utility bills, buying movie tickets to wealth management, but in Hong Kong, it limits its service to in-store digital payment and transferring money among friends.

“Only time can tell whether Hong Kong residents are willing to accept these tech-savvy mobile payment tools due to cultural differences,” said Li Chao, an analyst at research firm iResearch Consulting Group.

Alibaba is the owner of the South China Morning Post.