Following reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook during last month’s visit to China discussed a rumored mobile payments partnership with UnionPay, The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday that the Cupertino firm met with Alibaba’s Jack Ma to reportedly iron out an Apple Pay alliance with the popular Chinese e-commerce company.
This could give Apple Pay a major boost in the 1.4 billion people country. Alibaba, founded in 1999, is the world’s largest online marketplace and has a commanding 80 percent market share in the country.
The company raised a whopping $231 billion during its initial public offering. Cook at the WSJ Digital conference last month hinted (the full uncut interview now available) that his company was in talks with Alibaba regarding partnering on Apple Pay.
Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai told the financial newspaper that the partnership would focus on the Chinese market, and the two parties are “currently discussing specifics” of a possible deal.
“Right now, I think what we can say is that this is focused on the China market for Apple,” he said. “We are positive about the potential cooperation, but it depends on the details being worked out.”
Under the terms of the upcoming agreement, Alibaba would agree to permit Alipay, its electronic-payment business in China, to serve as a backend service for Apple Pay, allowing iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners to pay with Apple Pay using the money from their Alipay accounts.
With an estimated $150 billion in transactions processed in 2013 and 300 million registered users (100 million on mobile), Alipay recently zoomed past PayPal to become the world’s largest mobile payments platform.