Alibaba Could Open Apple Pay’s Door to China (May 12, 2015)
Two of the biggest names in global commerce are exploring a partnership that could bring Apple Pay to China. Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off a visit to China this week by revealing the company is in talks with Chinese online retail giant Alibaba Group about launching Apple Pay in the country. Cook told China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency that Apple “very much want[s] to get Apple Pay in China,” and that Apple has been negotiating with Alibaba, as well as the nation’s banks. Noting Apple Pay’s quick start in the U.S., Cook said he believed the contactless payment service could take off even faster in China.
Apple already has carved out a significant foothold in the Chinese market, selling more iPhones in China than in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2015. The company also is planning to add 18 Apple Stores to the 22 already open in China by 2016. Joining forces with Alibaba, which controls 80 percent of the Chinese e-commerce market, would supercharge Apple’s growth in China—and could pave the way for bringing Apple Pay to the country. In September, Apple reportedly struck a deal with payments network China UnionPay to enable UnionPay cardholders to link their cards to Apple Pay. However, Apple Pay support for UnionPay cards has yet to be added to the iPhone operating system. (UnionPay cards can be used to make virtual purchases in the App Store under a separate agreement reached by the companies in November.)
Soon after Apple Pay’s U.S. launch last fall, Alibaba founder Jack Ma appeared keen on the prospect of integrating Apple Pay with Alibaba’s Alipay online payments platform. “I hope we can do something together,” Ma told attendees at the WSJD Live Global Technology Conference. Two months later, the companies’ relationship took a step forward when Alibaba announced it would begin enabling Alipay users to authenticate their accounts using the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor instead of a password.
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