China's Dalian Wanda buys online payment firm 99Bill for $322 mn

Chinese property giant Dalian Wanda Group has acquired a controlling stake in 99Bill Corp, a Chinese third-party online payment platform, foraying into the country's e-commerce market.

The group whose commercial real estate arm completed Hong Kong's largest initial public offer (IPO) of $3.7 billion earlier this week did not disclose details of the transaction. Some sources familiar with the matter reported a sum of 2 billion yuan ($322 million) for the deal.

Reports last month suggested a possible takeover of 99Bill by Chinese search engine giant Baidu for 2 billion yuan, but the deal was not confirmed.

Shanghai-based 99Bill, founded in 2005, is an internet company focused on providing online payment services in China. The company also has offices in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Nanjing. Its payment platform supports a variety of terminals, including internet, mobile phone and point-of-sales (POS).

99Bill, also known as Kuaiqian, has established strategic partnerships with over 50 banks and financial institutions in China, including Bank of China, China UnionPay, CITIC Industrial Bank, Hua Xia Bank, NetEase, Ourgame, Kingsoft, and NetDragon.

In addition, the company supports payment via major international cards, such as VISA and MasterCard. Its services currently cover a total of 3 billion domestic and international bank cards.

99Bill is ranked fourth in the internet payment business in China after Alipay, Tenpay and Unionpay, with a market share of 6.9 per cent, according to iResearch.

Further to the completion of the deal, 99Bill will continue to operate as an independent entity.

Dalian Wanda chief executive Ding Benxi said: "Wanda Group hopes that 99Bill will soon provide online payment solutions for all Wanda's businesses, and quickly become a leading payment and financial service provider in China."

Earlier in August, Wanda formed an $814-million joint venture with Chinese web services giants Baidu and Tencent to cooperate on mobile payments on Wanda properties. Wanda holds 70-per cent stake in the JV.

Wanda's customers in 100 locations can use Tencent's payment tools - WeChat Payments and TenPay - to make purchases in-store. It is expected that 99Bills will be added to the payment options.

With 99Bill acquisition, Wanda will strengthen its position to take on its major rival Alipay, the electronic payment platform of online shopping giant Alibaba. Currently, Alipay accounts of almost half of all third-party online payments in China.

Wanda, China's largest commercial property portfolio, is controlled by Wang Jianlin, the country's fourth-richest man with a net worth of $13.2 billion, according to latest Forbes China rich list.

The group operates 98 Wanda Plazas, 60 five-star hotels, 6,200 cinema screens and 84 department stores. The company has assets of $68 billion and annual revenue of $23 billion.

Recently, Wang said that he was preparing to shift focus of the group towards entertainment, tourism and online businesses and the new plans for transforming the group will be revealed early next year.