Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he’d like to work with Alibaba on an Apple Pay partnership, calling the Chinese e-commerce giant and its founder Jack Ma “wicked smart.” Now, just a few weeks later, the two companies may be edging towards an agreement that could bring Apple Pay to China in a big way.
Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the company is looking to strike a deal with Apple. He noted that the partnership would focus entirely on China, which has become the world’s biggest e-commerce market. “We are positive about the potential cooperation, but it depends on the details being worked out,” Tsai added.
It’s unclear exactly what an Apple Pay-Alibaba partnership might look like, but it’s possible the deal may actually hinge on Alipay, a separate affiliated mobile payments company also owned by Ma. Alipay could provide the back-end support for Apple Pay in China, even letting people funnel money from their current account into Apple’s new service.
For now, Apple Pay is still officially limited to the U.S. market, though it appears to work in some other regions under specific circumstances. Cook has already expressed a clear interest in bringing the service to China, and Alibaba may just be his ticket into the country.