Alibaba continues international expansion – adds two datacenters and a bank

Bit barns in Saudi Arabia, all-digital bank in Singapore

Alibaba's cloud business and financial services affiliate Ant Group has expanded further out of China this week, by opening a pair of datacenters in Saudia Arabia and a digital wholesale bank in Singapore.

Alibaba Cloud and Saudi Telecom Company (STC) have opened two cloud services in Riyadh which will serve as a regional hub as part of a joint venture called the Saudi Cloud Computing Company (SCCC). STC confirmed the launch on Tuesday and the joint venture, SCCC, shared scenes from the launch.

Other businesses playing a part in SCCC are eWTP Arabia Capital, the Saudi Company for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI), and the Saudi Information Technology Company (SITE).

The two datacenters add to 16 already present in Saudi Arabia. According to state-sponsored media Saudi Press Agency, the additions will provide "secure public cloud computing solutions ranging from elastic compute, storage, network to database to cater for the surging business demand from industries such as retail, fintech, internet and so on along their digitalization journey in the region."

Alibaba Cloud operates a network of 84 availability zones in 27 regions worldwide and has recently expanded in Europe, gaining the largest Euro-presence of any other Chinese cloud company. It also claims the largest cloud infrastructure in Asia.

In a busy week for Alibaba, the company's financial services affiliate, Ant Group, today launched a digital wholesale bank in Singapore.

Called ANEXT, the bank "will focus on providing digital financial services to local and regional micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), especially those engaging in cross-border operations for growth and global expansion," according to a canned statement.

The digital-only bank will offer these MSMEs three-factor authentication, remote onboarding, daily interest and dual-currency deposit accounts. ANEXT received approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to commence business on June 2, 2022 after receiving a license at the end of 2020. It is one of two applicants yet to receive a digital wholesale banking license from the Singaporean regulator.

MAS announced in June 2019 it would issue up to three digital wholesale bank licenses and two digital full bank licenses to allow non-traditional players to enter the industry.

Successful applicants needed at least three years experience in tech or e-commerce, five years of financial projections that demonstrate profitability, and to have have headquarters in Singapore and Singaporean presiding officers.

"This marks yet another milestone in Singapore's digital bank development journey – a strategic effort to ensure the banking sector remains progressive, globally competitive and vibrant," said MAS CFO Sopnendu Mohanty.

Ant Group will also partner with MAS, Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and private B2B hub Proxtera, to "create an open framework for all participating financial institutions as they provide financing and risk mitigation support for SMEs and platforms in global trades." ®

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