Huawei is seeking approval from authorities to acquire licensed digital payment provider Xunlian Zhifu, Chinese media reported.

Why it matters: The telecommunications giant is the latest of China’s big tech firms to expand into the digital payment industry, just as regulators are trying to break Ant Group and Tencent’s duopoly in the market with new antitrust laws.

Staffing: In addition to acquiring the Shenzhen-based licensed payment provider, Huawei is recruiting a “large number” of digital payment-related positions, such as deposit management, clearance, and bank cooperation, Chinese media reported on Sunday citing anonymous sources.

The acquisition: Founded in 2013 by Huawei’s competitor ZTE, Xunlian Zhifu was issued a nationwide online payment license in 2014. ZTE sold 90% of its stake in the payment provider to a Shanghai-based holding company in 2016.

  • Huawei has operated Huawei Pay, a payment service that uses Near Field Communication and has been built into its smartphones since 2016. But bank card provider China UnionPay is responsible for transaction processing.

Antitrust: Regulators have ramped up anti-monopoly regulation in the last few months, following the suspension in November of Ant Group’s mega dual listing.

  • Ant Group accounted for 55.6% of China’s digital payment market and Tencent for 38.8% as of June 30, 2020, according to market research firm iResearch.
  • The two companies fulfill the criteria of a duopoly in the third-party payment sector, according to a a draft regulatory definition released in late January.

READ MORE: New digital payment rules likely to hit Ant Group, Tencent

New entrants: Several internet companies bought licensed digital payment operators in 2020, including Pinduoduo in January, and Bytedance and in September.

  • Bytedance launched an in-app payment tool in domestic short video app Douyin in January. The TikTok operator also launched a lending app in 2019.

READ MORE: Bytedance unveils Douyin mobile payment tool to rival Alipay, WeChat

Eliza was TechNode's blockchain and fintech reporter until July 2021, when she moved to CoinDesk to cover crypto in Asia. Get in touch with her via email or Twitter.