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Asia300

Ant Financial offers cut-rate remittances to Philippines

Alibaba group builds own network after MoneyGram acquisition is blocked

Alibaba Group's Jack Ma, right, greets a Filipino guest at a news conference Monday
Alibaba Group's Jack Ma, right, greets a Filipino guest at a news conference Monday. The Philippines is one of the world's largest remittance markets, and many from there work in Hong Kong.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Alibaba Group Holding's payment affiliate Ant Financial launched Monday a blockchain-based service to send money between Hong Kong and the Philippines, slashing remittance costs for the city's roughly 200,000 Filipinos.

The service will employ Ant Financial's AlipayHK and Filipino counterpart GCash, operated by Globe Telecom, to transfer money internationally via smartphone in just seconds with blockchain technology. Standard Chartered will act as the settlement bank for the transactions.

Filipinos in Hong Kong, who often work as housekeepers and nannies, frequently send money back home, and Ant Financial's new approach aims to make this faster and cheaper than with a bank. The company will explore expanding the program to areas outside Hong Kong as well.

The move comes after Ant Financial's proposed acquisition of U.S. money-transfer company MoneyGram was blocked by American authorities in January. Jack Ma Yun, Alibaba's co-founder and executive chairman, said in a press conference Monday that the affiliate resolved to build a better service than MoneyGram after the deal collapsed. Ma added that he does not regret the failed deal, but MoneyGram will.

Ma also critiqued the state of technology in finance, saying fintech has only given more power to financial institutions. He said Alibaba would continue to provide support with "techfin," the phrase he coined in 2016 to define Alipay's mission to help more young people, small companies and poor nations gain access to capital.

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