Apple has agreed to accept mobile payment app Alipay at its 41 stores in China – the first time the tech giant and iPhone maker has accepted third-party mobile payment at any of its 500 shops globally.
The deal strengthens ties between Apple and China’s giant e-commerce group Alibaba as the US group bids to revive sales growth in the world’s second-biggest economy.
The tie-up will see Alipay, run by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, the first third-party mobile payment system accepted at any of Apple’s bricks-and-mortar store. However, Apple’s China website, iTunes store and App Store have already been accepting Alipay for more than a year.
The deal reflects acceptance by Apple that its own ApplePay system has made little headway in the country, although the company sold 41.1m smartphones in mainland China last year and reported net sales of $44.76bn in greater China.
Apple is also looking to strengthen ties with local Chinese partners and government bodies. The group’s CEO, Tim Cook, has made regular trips to China.
China’s official Xinhua news agency has reported that Apple is to build its second data centre in China in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, having established its first in the country last year in the southern province of Guizhou.
China is the world’s biggest third party mobile payments market and dominated by Alipay and its main rival Tencent’s WeixinPay, embedded within its popular WeChat app. In 2016 the duo accounted for $11.4 trillion of payments, according to Goldman Sachs.