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PayPal Moves Further Into China With UnionPay Partnership

Julie Verhage

(Bloomberg) -- PayPal Holdings Inc. is taking another step into the giant Chinese payments market, partnering with state-backed China UnionPay Co. in a move that could expand PayPal’s network in the country. The partnership will allow some UnionPay cardholders access to PayPal’s network, and eventually, could pave the way for PayPal to be accepted at Chinese locations that take UnionPay.

Users of Shanghai-based UnionPay, the world’s largest card company by payment volume, will be able to add their UnionPay cards to PayPal accounts and use them in a number of countries where PayPal is accepted outside of China. “There is a lot of room for us to help people visiting from China find a way to pay while traveling,” Jim Magats, senior vice president of global payments at PayPal, said in an interview.

The companies also said that the tie-up would allow PayPal and UnionPay’s global subsidiary, UnionPay International, to “explore opportunities” to expand PayPal’s reach in China. In a statement, Magats said the new partnership would give the company the option to “expand PayPal’s digital wallet to physical retail locations where UnionPay is accepted in China, or internationally.”

The UnionPay partnership is part of a string of moves by PayPal to grow its Chinese presence. In September, China’s central bank granted PayPal approval to buy a 70% stake in a Chinese payment company Gopay Information Technology Co., allowing PayPal to become the first foreign compapny to operate in China’s payment service market. Gopay has licenses for online, mobile and cross-border yuan payment services.

China’s $27 trillion payments industry is dominated by a few companies, with Ant Financial Services Group and Tencent Holdings Ltd. accounting for a majority of digital payments, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. However, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, PayPal Chief Executive Officer Dan Schulman said that it wasn’t too late for the company to stake a claim there. “It’s an exploding market,” he said. “It’s growing so quickly that there’s room for every player in it.”

On Wednesday, UnionPay cards will be available to be added to PayPal wallets in Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. The companies said they plan to add the option for more than 30 other markets in 2020.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Verhage in New York at jverhage2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Milian at mmilian@bloomberg.net, Anne VanderMey

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