Alibaba Arm to Work with Digital Currency

Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), is becoming one of the first major privately run businesses to work with China’s digital currency trials.

MYbank — an online-only bank in which Ant has a 30% stake — is allowing some users to link their accounts with China’s digital yuan app, state-backed China Securities Journal said Monday.

The new feature is accessible to some users through Ant’s Alipay app, another report from the journal said. Alipay is one of the two primary mobile pay apps in China, where using smartphones for daily payment transactions is the norm.

In the last year, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) has distributed several million dollars’ worth of a digital yuan through an app that is connected with the six major, state-owned banks. These tests have allowed selected users to buy products from participating brick-and-mortar stores and JD.com’s e-commerce app.

Ant did not confirm the exact nature of its participation in the digital currency project, but said that along with MYbank, the group would be involved with trials and research around the digital yuan — also called e-CNY — according to a statement.

MYbank said it had more than 35 million small business and individual clients as of the end of last year, marking growth of 68% from the year before.

It was not immediately clear to what extent MYbank users could transact in the digital yuan.

BABA shares skidded $5.05, or 2.2%, to $220.26