China's top antitrust agency could probe payment giants Alipay and WeChat Pay - report

The State Council Information Office of China, the country’s top antitrust agency, could reportedly probe Alipay and WeChat Pay for their dominant positions in the payments space.

A Reuters report on Friday, citing “sources with knowledge of the matter,” said that the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, has recommended the State Council to launch a probe into the two companies.

The State Council is reportedly taking the central bank’s recommendation “very seriously,” which was made sometime in the second quarter. The council has been collecting information on Alipay and WeChat Pay for more than a month, per the report.

At the same time, the two companies are reportedly lobbying government officials to avoid a probe. Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay together command 94% of market share.

The news comes as China’s central bank is nearing to launch its own digital currency. It is not clear why the central bank would want to start a probe against the two companies since they were reportedly going to act as distributors of digital yuan.

Both Alipay and Tencent are working on digital currency-related projects, one person close to the two firms told The Block recently. Alipay has also set up a separate office for digital yuan, the person said at the time.