• A KFC store displays a sign that allows Alipay mobile payment service in its establishment.

A KFC store displays a sign that allows Alipay mobile payment service in its establishment. (Photo : Getty Images)

Alibaba's financial arm Ant Financial Services Group, operator of mobile payment service Alipay, has moved into Thailand in a bid to serve half of the country's netizens in the next five years, boosting its overseas expansion, the company announced on Tuesday, Nov.1.

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China Daily reported that Ant Financial has signed an agreement with Ascend Money, an arm of Thailand agriculture-to-telecoms conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, for a strategic cooperation that would allow Ascend Money to replicate Alipay's service such as offline e-payment and microloan to enable Thais to use their mobile phones to pay for dining, shopping, taxi fares and utility bills.

Ant Financial's move to Thailand is part of its global expansion plan which aims to serve 2 billion customers in the next 10 years, the report said.

Eric Jing, CEO of Ant Financial, said at the ceremony in Hong Kong that aside from enabling Chinese Alipay users to make payments in Thailand, it could also open "vast untapped potential" in the country's market.

According to Ant Financial, electronic payments (e-payments) account for only 10 percent of all payments in Thailand and by 2020, it expects to provide its innovative financial services to more than 100 million customers and SMEs in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

In Thailand, about 80 percent of people have bank accounts but more than 60 percent of them are underbanked, which is the group being targeted by the company, Punnamas Vichitkulwongsa, CEO of Ascend Group, said. He added that they will start lending to SMEs and to those people who are not qualified for loans, investment or insurance products from banks.

Ant Financial said that in October their overseas users had reached nearly 200 million which account for about 30 percent of its total users. About 150 million of these are Paytm users. Ant Financial partnered with the Indian company last year.

As their growth in China is slowing down, e-payment companies such as Ant Financial and WeChat, a messaging app with payment functions, have expanded to international market, Li Zhefeng, an analyst at iResearch Consulting Group, said.

Data from iResearch showed that Ant Financial's Alipay had 3.7 million downloads in September, an increase of 18.7 percent from 3.1 million in January. It grew more than 40 percent last year.