Tencent Holdings has applied for a licence in Malaysia to offer local payment services via its WeChat Pay, in what would be a first for the platform beyond Mainland China and Hong Kong.
If approved, users in Malaysia will be able to link their bank accounts to the service and pay for goods and services in ringgit.
Tencent has chosen Malaysia as a test bed because of its large Chinese community, says WeChat Pay global director Grace Yin.
The company has more than 600 million monthly users of its QQ Wallet and WeChat Pay, which is embedded in social-media app WeChat, which has 938 million active users. Rival Alipay says it has more than 450 million active users.
WeChat Pay and Alipay dominate China’s mobile banking market, which had RMB18.8 trillion (US$2.76 trillion) worth of transactions in the first three months of this year, according to consultancy Analysys.
Silicon Valley startup Stripe this week said it has partnered with the two companies to allow its merchants worldwide to accept payments from Chinese consumers.
WeChat Pay can be used at more than 130,000 shops in 13 foreign markets, including Japan, and supports 10 currencies. Yin says to expand overseas, WeChat Pay needs extra layers of regulatory approval, as well as having to explain the system to local businesses.
Meanwhile, seeing Thailand as central to its expansion across Southeast Asia, Tencent is putting an early focus on advertising Thai brands to Chinese tourists in Mandarin.
Tencent Thailand MD Krittee Manoleehagul says Thailand is the third market to offer service this after Hong Kong and Italy.
About 10 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit Thailand this year. Last year, 8.7 million tourists spent THB146 billion (US$4.2 billion) on shopping for items like food, gifts, souvenirs, clothes and cosmetics, amounting to 3 per cent of the country’s GDP, reports the Bangkok Post.
“This is a huge opportunity for Thai brands that target Chinese tourists,” says Krittee. Tencent could help attract them through its digital services including WeChat messaging, the Qzone social network and WeChat Pay.
Social media and search engines are the two most influential channels for reaching Chinese travellers, says Krittee, while extending WeChat Pay to Thai merchants will make shopping easier for them.
Thailand is also seen as a hub for expansion into Indochina. Already, Tencent has set up a JV in neighbouring Laos and intends to establish a presence in Myanmar this year.