Apple in Talks With Alibaba to Partner on Mobile Payments in China

Updated from 9:29 a.m. to include commentary from analyst Carolina Milanesi.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) is in talks to partner with Alibaba (BABA) on mobile payments, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told Xinhua that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is speaking to both Alibaba and Chinese banks to bring its mobile payment system to China.

"We very much want to get Apple Pay in China," Cook told Xinhua.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment.

Alibaba currently operates a mobile payment system of its own called Alipay via its affiliate Ant Financial. Apple Pay would seemingly pose some competition for Alipay, but Ant Financial seems to believe the two can work in tandem.

"Ant Financial is open to work with various partners in order to provide secure, efficient and convenient online and mobile payment services for over 300 million Alipay users," a representative for Ant Financial Services Group said.

Apple Pay was launched in the U.S. last September and it is now accepted at more than 220,000 retail locations. The payment system seems to be gaining traction, claiming more than 50% of tap-to-pay purchases at McDonald's (MCD) and about 1% of all Whole Foods (WFM) transactions.

There is potential for the two services to benefit each other, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Gil Luria.

"Apple is more interested in how sticky Apple Pay makes its iPhone, and Alibaba can still have Alipay as the payment method," Luria said. "Apple Pay can compete with Alipay in some implementations, especially if it is linked to a China Union Pay card, but Alibaba does not have to implement it that way."

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