Concerns have been raised about a takeover bid for Dutch online payments platform Multisafepay by the company behind China’s largest provider of contactless transactions, Alipay.
ANT Group is rumoured to have bid around $200 million (€186 million) for Multisafepay, which has a market share in the Netherlands of around 10%.
Geopolitical analysts and European politicians say the move would give Alipay a foothold in the EU market, which could then be exploited by the Chinese government.
“This business increasingly revolves around data,” Bart Groothuis, MEP for the right-wing liberal VVD party told NRC. “Financial transaction data is a powerful weapon. We don’t want it to fall into the hands of countries that pose a risk.”
Groothuis said European regulators should run the rule over the proposed takeover, in line with a plan put forward by the European parliament two weeks ago to tighten up the screening of takeovers and investments by foreign players.
The deal is subject to the approval of the Dutch central bank, which declined to comment when asked by NRC if an assessment was ongoing.
Online payment systems grew rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic, but the market has cooled since then, leaving smaller players such as Multisafepay susceptible to being bought out by larger companies.
Antonia Hmaidi, of Berlin-based research bureau Merics, which specialises in relations with China, said Alibaba, the parent company of Alipay, was looking to expand its international presence as it seeks to compete with US giants such as Visa, Mastercard and Apple Pay.
But Hmaidi said the Dutch government also had to be aware of the strategic implications of a sale. “Would it be a problem for the Dutch economy if the Chinese government ordered Alipay to switch off all its payment services?” she said.
“This is an opportunity for the EU to show that it believes in the importance of transparency, openness, laws and regulations. Even if you are a Chinese company.”
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