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Alipay's spare money business stirs online investment


17:18, June 19, 2013

BEIJING, June 18 (Xinhua) -- E-commerce giant Alibaba Group, which runs, has established a new business offering customers higher investment yields than interest from banks.

Five years ago, group board chairman Ma Yun said if Chinese banks do not change then they will be forced to change. The venture could be the beginning of that process.

Alipay, China's leading third-party online payment platform and a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group, announced Monday it will offer nearly 800 million of its users the option to directly invest with the private TIANHONG Fund using spare cash from Alipay accounts.

The fund invests in various equities or stocks.

Regarded as China's first "Internet Fund," the business features the lowest threshold of fund investment with a minimum of one yuan (0.16 U.S. dollars), other than the conventional tens of thousands of yuan.

Users can realize fund redemption at any time, and the capital can be used directly for online payments or transferred even without redemption.

China has the world's most Internet users, and online shoppers reached 242 million at the end of 2012, a jump of 24.8 percent from a year earlier, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Alibaba Group, founded in 1999, provides services for Internet users in countries and regions across the world.

It announced at the end of 2012 that total transaction volume at the group's online shopping platform exceeded 1 trillion yuan by November, or 5.4 percent of the country's retail sales for consumer goods in 2011.

Considering Alipay provides an online payment service for, a large amount of spare cash stays in Alipay accounts of Taobao users.

"I spent 78 yuan in my Alipay account to buy shares in the fund," Li Xiaoying, a Hangzhou citizen in east China's Zhejiang Province, said. "This convenient business of investment caters to common people like me."

Zhou Xiaoming, vice general manager of TIANHONG Fund, said, "The annual yield stayed between 3 and 4 percent in 2012, higher than the yearly bank deposit interest rate and with relatively low risk.", a website expert in financial information, said in its official Sina Weibo, China's most popular microblogging service, that an investment of 100,000 yuan can earn 4,000 per year based on the current profit rate, while deposit interest was just 3,500.

Luo Changping, deputy chief editor of Caijing Magazine, praised Ma Yun as a hero against financial monopoly.

Fan Zhiming, president of domestic businesses of Alibaba's small and micro financial sector, said the innovative business attracts spare money from many young online consumers with limited capital and financial knowledge, which benefits both these Alipay users and the company.

"This is one small step for Internet financial progress, one giant leap for the fund industry," Fan added.

However, analysts said Alipay's new business involves investment and financing, so risks are inevitable.

The business model is expected to be imitated by Alipay's competitors, even when the leading giant takes up nearly 50 percent of the market share in online payment service sector. h A famous investment microblogger "fengyuxiahuangshan-huangsheng" criticized Ma Yun for deceiving consumers through a deposit-like investment method with possibilities of losses, calling for further regulations.

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