Top Chinese internet company Tencent has launched the country’s first private online bank, called WeBank after the company’s popular messaging app WeChat.
Last year the Chinese government launched a pilot programme to make financing more easily available to smaller businesses, which are often rejected by the country’s larger, state owned banks. In order to do so the Chinese government approved licenses for five banks backed by ten private investors, including Tencent rival Alibaba, which will be launching its own bank in partnership with Fosun International.
Tencent and Alibaba intend to use ‘big data’ to assess the risk of lending to smaller businesses, which provide about 60 per cent of China’s GDP and around 75 per cent of new jobs, the Financial Times reported. The two companies already compete in messaging and e-commerce.
China premier Li Keqiang said “we will lower costs for and deliver practical benefits to small clients, while forcing traditional financial institutions to accelerate reforms” as he issued WeBank’s first loan at a ceremony in Shenzhen. By pressing a button, the Chinese premier authorised the new bank’s first 35,000 RMB (about $5,600) to a truck driver.
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