Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, CEO of Ascend Group 2 FINAL

Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, CEO of Ascend Money

Ant Financial Services Group, the mighty Alibaba-owned fintech company, has invested in Thailand’s Ascend Money, its first partner in Southeast Asia.

The companies would not reveal the financial details of the investment.

With the injection of capital, Ascend will work to accelerate its digital and offline payments infrastructure in Thailand, while the deal marks Ant Financial’s ‘foot in the door’ moment for Southeast Asia.

Ant Financial — which runs Alipay — made its first global investment with the Indian payment startup Paytm. This investment would be Ant Financial’s second globally and gives the Chinese company a similar relationship in Southeast Asia.

“The payment market in SE Asia has vast untapped potential and we are dedicated to contributing our share to bring a greater variety of convenient and reliable financial services to small and micro enterprises and individual consumers,” said Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial, in a statement. 

Also Read: Ant Financial partners with US payment tech companies Verifone and First Data

Ascend Money, a subsidiary of the Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand is a large fintech company in Thailand operating under several brands. These are:

  • TrueMoney – Payments
  • Ascend Nano – Lending
  • Egg Digital – Digital marketing
  • Pantavanij – B2B marketplace for banking, construction, agribusiness and telecoms.
  • True IDC – Data centre brand
  • Ascend Commerce – Runs the e-commerce brands WeMall, iTrueMart and WeLoveShopping
  • Ascend Capital – the company’s VC arm

Ant Financial plans to provide Ascend with strategic and technical support through its payment, big data, risk control and cloud computing capabilities to help the Thai company grow in Southeast Asia. At present, Ascend operates in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam.

In an interview with CNBC today, Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa said:

“60 per cent of Southeast Asia’s population of 620 million is underserved, so that’s the real target. Ant Financial has helped the underserved in China massively uplift their livelihood on a mass scale.  We see that, and we see that as a model that is interesting that we can modify and adapt with our strong regional knowledge to make the livelihood of people in Southeast Asia successful.”

While not officially announced, last week TechCrunch reported Alibaba is in serious talks to purchase the Singaporean grocery delivery startup RedMart. That would mean Alibaba is making two strong moves into Southeast Asia and is following an explicit mandate made by Jack Ma in September to invest more in the region.

Also Read: The China century: Ant Financial tops global fintech innovation list

Ant Financial has about 450 million people using its various products and Jing said the company wants to top 2 billion users in ten years through partnerships like today’s announcement. Vichitkulwongsa said he hopes Ascend can offer similar services to about 100 million Southeast Asians by 2020.

Last week, Ant Financial strengthened its presence in the US through similar partnerships with Verifone and First Data.

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Photos courtesy of Litmus PR.