China’s internet finance heavyweight Ant Financial Service Group gained another foothold in overseas expansion, after a local lender it helped launch obtained the first operating license for internet-only banks from South Korean regulators. 

The move accords with a company strategy to advance the idea of inclusive finance, as the nation’s top wireless payment provider has a goal to serve 2 billion customers over the next decade around the globe. With regulatory clearance, K-Bank is allowed to provide all banking services, including deposits, loans, credit cards, financing and foreign exchange in South Korea, the company said on Thursday.

It would mark the first time in 24 years for a brand-new bank to be started in South Korea, according to the Financial Services Commission. The envisioned bank will be capitalized at 250 billion won ($213 million) with around 150 employees and headquartered in downtown Seoul, Yonhap News reported.  Ant Financial is the sole Chinese shareholder among a group of 20 institutional investors, including telecom carrier KT Corp.  Ant Financial said the K-Bank represents a “unique globalization model” that differs from overseas mergers and acquisitions – a common path taken by Chinese firms as they expand globally.

K-Bank marks yet another cause for celebration for Ant Financial after its parent Alibaba Group Holding Ltd upped its stake in Paytm, an Alipay-like payment system in India. Alipay was created in 2004 as a tool to facilitate transactions on Alibaba’s Taobao platform. But it has enjoyed exponential growth since by launching a string of financial products and services ranging from insurance, small business loans to wealth management.

Ant Financial, which owns the blockbuster tool, holds powerful stakes as it rolls out business abroad. It banks on the 450 million users to embrace the cashless mobile payments in China, according to iResearch figures. By offering an escrow service, Alipay handles around half of the estimated $738 billion Chinese people spent online last year.

Source : China Daily