Ant Financial pauses credit rating service amid coronavirus outbreak

(Reuters) - A Chinese credit rating service backed by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial stopped updating scores as of Wednesday, saying many users could miss payments because of the coronavirus outbreak, a reflection of emerging financial pains caused by disease.

Zhima Credit, or Sesame Credit, said in a statement posted on the Alipay app that the decision was made to “better fight the situation and serve its clients.”

The scoring service will resume after the virus is under control and social functions return to normal, it said, without giving a specific time frame. Any missed payments will still be recorded in the system, it added, and the platform will later assess the each client to see whether to lower their scores.

Zhima Credit is one of China’s most popular private credit-rating platforms, scoring people and small businesses based on their use of other Ant-linked services - in effect, their shopping and borrowing habits.

Alipay, the third-party payment app that Zhima draws most of its data from, had 1.2 billion users globally as of June 2019.

The spread of coronavirus has led central and local authorities to cordon off cities, suspend transport links and shutter facilities where crowds gather, choking off many forms of commerce.

Editing by Gerry Doyle