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BEIJING, April 24 (Reuters) - China's Ant Financial said on Monday it wants to increase operations in Japan by partnering with at least one payment firm, amid a rapid Asia expansion and a $1.2 billion bid for U.S. transfer service MoneyGram International Inc.
Ant, the finance affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , has in the last few months completed strategic investments in payments ventures across Asia, including Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines.
"In Japan, there (is a) strong need of financial services from small and micro enterprises, and Ant is willing to share its standards and experience with local partners," said a company spokeswoman. She declined to provide a timeline for its expansion plans in the world's third largest economy.
Ant also plans to double the number of Japanese stores that accept Alipay, the firm's flagship payment app targeting Chinese tourists, to over 45,000 this year.
Alipay currently operates in Japan through 10 partners, including Orix Corp, Origami Pay, Orico Corp and Jaccs Co.
Ant's Alipay is China's top mobile wallet app with over 450 million users, and features personal investment products, loans and insurance products, as well as mobile payments and e-commerce functionalities.
The firm has a two-tier strategy, deploying Alipay in overseas countries as a payment method for Chinese tourists, and investing in regional payment firms with the aim of building localised services.
Last week, the company entered a second bid for U.S. firm MoneyGram last week, representing a 36 percent premium on an initial offer that U.S. rival Euronet Worldwide Inc threatened to derail with an unsolicited bid. (Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Randy Fabi)