China’s Ant Financial, a fintech affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has quietly acquired a sizable stake in a Vietnamese e-wallet eMonkey as Vietnam’s rapid growth is drawing global technology giants, Reuters reported.
The move, negotiated over the summer, is not being announced due to concerns that anti-China sentiment in Vietnam could result in possible pushback, three people with knowledge of the situation told Reuters.
The strategic investment, Ant’s eight international payments deal, will allow the firm to gain entry to Vietnam’s booming market of nearly 100 million people, a quarter of whom are under 25, and where e-commerce growth is among the highest in the region.
Chinese firms have to operate cautiously given tensions between Vietnam and China. Beijing and Hanoi have clashed over disputed maritime claims and concerns over China-backed special economic zones have triggered nationwide protests in Vietnam.
Ant will not control more than 50% of eMonkey, but is expected to have significant influence and provide technical expertise to the e-wallet, which was created by small Vietnamese fintech firm M-Pay Trade, one of the sources told Reuters.
The source did not disclose the size of the deal.
Despite having its own office in Vietnam, Ant chose to invest in eMonkey because it had already obtained all its operating licences from the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), the person said.
M-Pay additionally holds partnerships with most of the country’s largest banks and telecoms.
Hanoi-based M-Pay Trade and Technology was established in 2008. In November, Lazada Vietnam incorporated eMonkey into its platform.
Its eMonkey competes against intensifying competition in Vietnam’s digital payments industry, with the market being led by Standard Chartered-backed local e-wallet Momo.
M-Pay and Ant Financial did not respond to requests for immediate comment. The sources declined to be named, as the deal remains confidential.
In 2019, Vietnam saw a sharp increase in fintech funding, attributable to two large deals namely US$300 million into VNPay, the largest deal for a fintech firm in ASEAN in 2019, and US$100 million into Momo Pay’s Series-C fundraising round at third place.