Tim Cook to explore tie-up with China's Alibaba on Apple Pay

Tim Cook, Apple iPhone 5S Event

Apple is eyeing a possible partnership with China’s biggest e-commerce player Alibaba Group that could help bring the company’s Apple Pay service to the country.

“We’re going to talk about getting married later this week,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook at the The Wall Street Journal’s technology conference on Monday.

Cook made the comment after he was asked by the moderator about a possible “marriage” between Apple and Alibaba’s Alipay, an online payment service from China with 300 million registered users.

Cook later said he admired Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, and added, “If we can find some areas of common space, I love it. I love partnering with people like that.”

Ma, who also spoke at the conference, said he too hoped the companies could partner, according to The Wall Street Journal’s live blog of the event.

Last week Cook was in China, where he told a state-run publication that he wanted to bring Apple’s new mobile payment system to the country.

“I’m convinced there will be enough people that want to use it. It’s going to be successful,” Cook said in the interview with Xinhua New Agency.

To make it happen, Apple will have to find partners in China, just as it has in the U.S., where Apple Pay launched last week.

The system lets registered users make payments with their iPhone 6 devices at stores equipped with NFC (near-field communication) readers. In the U.S., Apple has partnered with companies including Visa, MasterCard, banks and retailers including McDonalds, Walgreens and Nike.

In China, Alibaba has also been working to promote mobile payments with its affiliated Alipay service. Alipay Wallet, a mobile app, also lets users make payments with their phone to buy goods at shopping malls and convenience stores. It has 190 million annual active users.

China is Apple’s second biggest market behind the U.S. But Cook has said the country will eventually grow to become the company’s largest market one day. Over the next two years, Apple plans on adding 25 new company stores in China, Cook said in his interview with Xinhua.

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