Chinese Payment App Poised for Swiss Launch

Jack Ma,Alibaba

Jack Ma,Alibaba

The Swiss finance industry faces a new threat, this time from Asia. China's Internet giant Alibaba is planning to offer several of its services in Switzerland.

Switzerland's answer to Apple Pay will be ready in January: The new version of Twint, the digital payment solution Swiss banking industry has agreed upon, is set to be launched in January. UBS, Credit Suisse, Raiffeisen, Zuercher Kantonalbank and Postfinance all have pledged to work with Twint.

But the Swiss finance industry needs to cast its net a little wider: Alibaba, the Chinese Internet giant, is set to extend into Europe, and also to Switzerland.

Bigger Than Paypal, Apple Pay

Alipay, the payment app offered by Alibaba, in China has 450 million customers. Alibaba's Ant Financial division developed the application, which may turn out to be an even bigger threat to Twint than Apple Pay.

Alipay is processing 960 billion Swiss francs in payments for its customers – triple the amount of Paypal and a multiple of Apple Pay's total.

Germany and France

In Europe, Ant Financial has been promoting Alipay for months, it has concluded a partnership with a French bank and works with the Wirecard credit card operator in Germany.

Wirecard a couple of weeks ago launched an app in Switzerland, which supports transactions in francs via Alipay, according to«Handelszeitung» newspaper.

China's Amazon

That's but one offering of «China's Amazon» in Switzerland. Swiss Tourism, the country's central tourist industry organization, is in talks with Alibaba with a view to possibly cooperate with Alitrip travel platform, a spokesperson told finews.ch.

Alitrip wants to offer package tours to Chinese tourists in cooperation with local tourist companies, much like in other European countries. That may bring yet more Chinese tourists to Switzerland, already a substantial group among foreign tourists. What's more, the Chinese tourists act as leverage for the expansion drive of Alipay.

Printemps in Paris

Alipay wants to be where the Chinese spend money. In Printemps shopping mall in Paris, the management has agreed to install Alipay payment terminals.

In Switzerland, there are no such terminals to be found yet. But Wirecard mulls the installations of such terminals, a spokesperson told finews.ch. And Swiss Tourism says: «According to information available to us, Alipay is likely available in Switzerland by 2017.»

Alibaba has yet to answer a request for a detailed business plan for Switzerland.

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