China's Dalian Wanda acquires online payments firm 99Bill
China's Dalian Wanda acquires online payments firm 99Bill.99Bill

China's Dalian Wanda Group, whose real estate arm recently raised some $3.7bn in a Hong Kong float, has acquired a controlling stake in 99Bill, a Chinese third-party payment processor similar to eBay's PayPal.

The Chinese conglomerate did not say how much it paid for the stake, which marks its first acquisition in the internet finance sector.

However, unnamed sources told Reuters that Dalian Wanda could have spent over 2bn yuan ($322m, £207m, €264m) for the stake.

99Bill caters to over two million registered merchants and handles over two million transactions per day, according to its website.

The 99Bill deal places Dalian Wanda's billionaire chairman Wang Jianlin in direct competition with Alibaba Group Holding's executive chairman Jack Ma and his Alipay unit, which controls about 80% of China's mobile payment market.

Dalian Wanda chief executive Ding Benxi said on Friday: "Wanda Group hopes that 99Bill will soon provide online payment solutions for all Wanda's businesses, and quickly become a leading payment and financial service provider in China,"

Wang's conglomerate, which is China's largest commercial property portfolio, is diversifying into e-commerce as it seeks to remain profitable amid a property slump in the world's second largest economy.

Wang has said he was preparing to shift the focus of the conglomerate towards entertainment, tourism and online businesses. He said at a conference earlier this month that he will reveal plans for transforming the group early next year.

Alibaba could partner with PayPal in a bid to expand its payment options, Bloomberg reported in November. The Chinese e-commerce giant also views Apple's payment system as helping Chinese consumers when Alibaba-affiliate Alipay is not accepted, according to the news agency.

In August, Dalian Wanda teamed up with two Chinese internet giants, Tencent Holdings and Baidu to roll out an e-commerce joint venture that could leverage the group's 104 Wanda Plaza shopping malls, 72 luxury hotels and 150 movie theaters in 111 Chinese cities.

Alipay settled $788bn in transactions in the year ended 30 June, 2014.