JD.com Considers Spinning Off Risk-Scoring and Lending Unit

  • Philip Ryan
  • November 16, 2016
  • 1

© Can Stock Photo / billperryPayments is a great business to be in — in China, that is.

The Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com announced it is considering the sale of its internet finance unit, JD Finance, “in order to facilitate its development in certain licensed financial service businesses in China, and to take advantage of the liquidity provided by the Chinese capital market,” the company noted on its earnings call yesterday.

JD.com raised $1 billion for JD Finance to provide credit to its customers earlier this year. The company, valued at $7 billion at the time of its raise, also provides financial scores to companies in partnership with U.S,-based ZestFinance. China’s rapidly growing middle class is hungry for credit, but hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers lack any sort of credit score.

The possible spin-off echoes that made by Alibaba, which spun off Ant Financial, which operates the payment service Alipay, in 2015. JD.com is considering selling to investors, including its own founder and CEO, Liu Qiangdong, also known as Richard Liu. All investors will be Chinese, which makes doing business in China far easier.

Mobile payments is big business in China. According to iResearch, volume is expected to triple to $3 trillion in 2018 from $1 trillion in 2014. Singles’ Day, a shopping holiday invented by Alibaba but now also “celebrated” by other e-commerce merchants, rang up nearly $18 billion in sales in one day.

Shenzen, China-based Tencent, “Asia’s most valuable tech company,” according to TechCrunch, also reported earnings this week, and posted strong profit, attributed to its messaging platform WeChat. (Roughly speaking, this would be like Amazon owning Facebook Messenger and actually monetizing it.) With 846 million monthly active users, WeChat earned revenue on its advertising and in-game sales. WeChat is also a significant platform for P2P payments, but does not break out specific numbers.

Ant Financial, valued at more than $60 billion, has been rumored to be seeking an IPO for some time, but in October revealed it had “no timeline” for such a move. Meanwhile, Beijing Happy Times, a lending startup funded by Ant Financial, may go public in the U.S. in 2017. Another lending startup, China Rapid Finance, announced deals with two banks — China United SME Guarantee Corp. and Bank of Shanghai — yesterday.

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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