April 23, 2019 / 4:43 PM / 3 months ago

Chinese tech giant Tencent invests in Argentine mobile banking startup

BUENOS AIRES, April 23 (Reuters) - Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd has invested in Argentine mobile banking service Uala, which also counts George Soros and Point72 Ventures LLC among its investors, the start-up's founder said.

Uala founder Pierpaolo Barbieri said the company planned to collaborate with the Chinese social media-to-gaming giant to further develop its app. He declined to disclose the amount of Tencent's investment.

Tencent, one of Asia's most valuable listed companies, announced last year it would boost investments in a number of "key areas" including digital payment, where its service jostles with rival Alipay, backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Tencent's own messenger-to-payment app WeChat now has more than 1 billion users in China and has launched in-app services that compete with Apple and Google apps.

"We are proud of their interest in Uala and look forward to collaborating on new products and services. This investment will allow us to grow even faster with our product roadmap," Barbieri said in an email to Reuters.

Argentine startups face regulatory hurdles in South America's second largest economy, but the country has spawned some of the region's most successful tech startups, including U.S.-listed online marketplace MercadoLibre Inc and Internet travel agent Despegar.com Corp.

The country, which has a large unbanked population, is also seeing a boom in digital finance from start-ups like Uala to a new wave of online banks competing with more traditional lenders.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison Editing by Marguerita Choy

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