PayPal brings its 'buy now, pay later' offer to crowded Australia

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Illustration photo of the PayPal app on a phone
The PayPal app logo seen on a mobile phone in this illustration photo October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

SYDNEY, March 10 (Reuters) - PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) will launch its "buy now, pay later" (BNPL) option in Australia this June, the U.S. payments giant said on Wednesday, muscling in further on Afterpay Ltd (APT.AX) and others for share in the booming industry.

So far PayPal's new BNPL option has been rolled out in the United States and Britain where by the end of the December quarter it said it had handled more than $750 million of transactions.

The U.S. payments giant now plans to bring its interest-free "Pay in 4" service to its more than 9 million customers in Australia, where regulation of the fast-growing space is thin compared to other consumer finance categories, while adoption is higher than other markets.

The arrival of PayPal presents a serious new competitor for Afterpay and Zip Co Ltd (Z1P.AX), who lead the domestic market, as well as Sweden's Klarna which is backed by a small shareholding from Australia's largest bank.

Andrew Toon, the general manager of payments at PayPal Australia, told Reuters the company had been "inundated" with requests from Australian merchants and businesses after the offshore launch of its BNPL service last year.

PayPal planned to capitalise on its long-standing relationships with Australian merchants but not to the point of seeking exclusive arrangements that would muscle out other BNPL providers, Toon added.

The company's initial announcement last year that it would join the BNPL sector raised concerns among investors and analysts that its deep network with retailers and lower merchant fees might eat into the incumbents' growth.

"The big question is whether (PayPal) gain incremental sales as in a potentially different customer base, or do they simply take share away from incumbents," said Steven Ng, the co-founder and senior portfolio manager at Ophir Asset Management, which owns Afterpay shares.

Shares of Afterpay, which have been battered in recent weeks by the global tech sell-off, were up more than 8%, while Zip fell 3.6% toward the end of the trading day.

"You shouldn't underestimate the scale and technological firepower that Paypal have in competing against existing players," Ng said, adding that competition will see further innovation and BNPL take greater market share in the overall payments industry.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru and Byron Kaye in Sydney; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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