* Kakao operates messaging platform, payment system
* Ant valued at $60 bln, planning IPO (Adds analyst comment, details on Ant overseas push)
By Adam Jourdan
SHANGHAI, Feb 21 (Reuters) - China’s Ant Financial will invest $200 million in Kakao Pay, the mobile payment subsidiary of South Korean messaging platform giant Kakao Corp, extending a major push by the Chinese firm to create a global network of financial assets.
The two firms said in a joint statement on Tuesday that the investment was part of a larger strategic partnership to help connect Ant’s 450 million global users with Kakao Pay, which currently has over 14 million members on its platform.
Ant, valued at $60 billion during a $4.5 billion fund raising round last April, has been using its financial firepower to expand at home and overseas as it prepares for an initial public offering that could be later this year.
The firm, the payment affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, announced an $880 million deal for U.S. money-transfer firm MoneyGram International last month.
Ant also has investments in Indian mobile payment and e-commerce website Paytm and Thai financial technology firm Ascend Money. It plans to expand in the Philippines with a stake in Globe Telecom Inc’s fintech firm Mynt.
“South Korea is an important market for Ant Financial in its global expansion, and we see many opportunities in the market for innovative services and growth in mobile payments,” said Douglas Feagin, president of Ant Financial International.
Ant, the world’s most valuable online finance company, dominates the online payments industry in China with its Alipay platform, but has been facing growing competition from domestic rival Tencent Holdings Ltd’s Wechat Pay.
Ant is currently looking to raise as much as $3 billion in debt to fund acquisitions and further foreign investments, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters earlier this month.
“Ant’s ultimate goal is to become a global payments monster - the biggest, broadest option for consumers,” said Ben Cavender, Shanghai-based principle for China Market Research.
“The challenge is facing strong local players around the world, so it’s cheaper to buy into these companies rather than burning money to steal market share from them.”
Kakao, best known for its online messaging platform Kakao Talk, has in total over 48 million users. Its Kakao Pay unit is a financial services platform which offers services such as bill payment and remittance. (Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Stephen Coates)