Ant sees blockchain as a path to 2 billion users
Alibaba's Ant Financial payments unit, which operates Alipay, is seeking uses for blockchain as it tries to quadruple its user base in the next ten years.
Eric Jing, Ant Financial's CEO, told CNBC the company has global ambitions, and has raised more than $4.5 billion in series B funding. The money will be used to fund development across a range of emerging technology including blockchain, biometrics, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
The innovation will drive an aggressive growth plan for Ant Financial's Alipay. Alipay's mobile wallet has about 450 million users, and Ant hopes to expand that to 2 billion in the next decade.
Blockchain is the distributed ledger technology that powers bitcoin, though it's also becoming known as a way to bring efficiencies to traditional banking, with uses for security and trading. For Alipay, one potential use would be to expand its ability to execute payments across borders, which could drive an international expansion.
Ant Financial last year received a license to operate a digital wallet in Hong Hong, considered a key preliminary step toward an international expansion. More recently, it made a move to expand into South Korea and expanded availability at U.S. airports.