SHANGHAI -- Walmart has stopped accepting the popular Alipay mobile payment option at some Chinese stores to promote partner Tencent Holdings' WeChat Pay instead, taking the pitched battle between the two services to a new level.
The American retailer suspended e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding's Alipay at about 90 locations in Chongqing, Sichuan Province and Yunnan Province and elsewhere. Customer convenience appears to have taken a back seat in Tencent's zeal to take on its behemoth rival.
Tencent -- the internet services company behind the WeChat mobile messaging app -- is the top shareholder in JD.com, the second-largest e-commerce company in China. Walmart joined forces with JD.com back in 2016, unloading online retailing operations in exchange for a stake. The three have been strengthening cooperation.
Alipay had a market share of 54% in the October-December quarter, against WeChat Pay's 38%, according to research company Analysys.
Alibaba recently said it would turn the operator of Ele.me food delivery platform into a wholly owned subsidiary. Tencent is also working hard to expand its sphere of business influence. As a result of such frantic efforts, the two rivals' market shares in payment services have held roughly steady.
Neither had gone so far as to shut the other out as a payment option. Tencent is now taking this drastic step to catch up with Alibaba, according to a distribution-sector source.
Comments on social media have been critical of the move. Some observers see the intense fighting by the two dominant players as a sign that the Chinese online economy is reaching its peak in growth.