Shoppers on Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao can now take out month-to-month loans of up to RMB30,000 (roughly US$4800). The new payment option is called Huabei, or ‘Just Spend’, and was released by Ant Financial Services Group, the Alibaba affiliate that oversees Alipay.
According to Ant Financial, over one million vendors are using the credit system. It is currently in a testing phase and a formal release has not yet been announced. The service allows consumers to pay off debts up to a month after delivery with a minimum purchase of RMB1,000 yuan (roughly US$160). Consumers will be expected to pay of the loans by the 10th day of the month following delivery.
In September, Ant Financial also announced that it aims to create a marketplace of 1 trillion yuan (roughly US$1.6 billion) over the coming 2 years, a number which will factor in the new Just Spend credit function.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma and a partner own a controlling stake in Ant Finance Services Group, who in-turn will finance the Just Spend function. While the two companies are formally separate, Ant Financial shares a 37.5% profit stake with Alibaba. Ant Financial also currently runs a micro-credit subsidiary called Ant Micro. Earlier this year it launched micro-loan platform Zhaocaibao, which is a marketplace for financial institutes to list finance products.
Competing retailer JD.com launched a credit option in February, offering up to 15,000 yuan (roughly US$2400) on a similar 30-day repayment plan. Tech giant Sina Weibo also launched a credit service called Xinyongbao this time last year, however it is still confined to minor purchases. Alibaba’s new Just Spend currently offers the largest credit advance of the major online consumer marketplaces in China.
Credit services have been historically under-utilised in China, making up just a fraction of the national GDP. However the past 5 years has seen a growth in household debt, as younger Chinese consumers are increasingly willing to take on new financing options.
The announcement also comes at a time when Alipay is expanding its consumer reach overseas. In November Ant Financial revealed that it will now offer direct purchase options for American vendors including department stores Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.
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