BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Apple Inc will accept Chinese mobile payment app Alipay in its local stores, boosting its ties with giant e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd amid a push by the iPhone maker to revive growth in the world's No.2 economy.
The tie-up will make Alipay, run by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, the first third-party mobile payment system to be accepted at any physical Apple store worldwide, Ant Financial said in a statement on Wednesday. Apple's own payment system has had a lukewarm reception in China.
The Cupertino-based firm will accept Alipay payment across its 41 brick-and-mortar retail stores in China, said Ant Financial, which was valued at $60 billion in 2016.
Apple, whose China website, iTunes store and App Store have been accepting Alipay for more than a year, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The deal comes as Apple is doubling down on the market and looking to strengthen ties with local Chinese partners and government bodies. The firm's CEO Tim Cook has made regular recent visits to the country.
Apple is also shifting user data to China-based servers later this month to meet local rules and last year removed dozens of local and foreign VPN apps from its Chinese app store.
Alipay is China's top mobile payment platform, but faces stiff competition from rival internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd's payment system that is embedded within its hugely-popular chat app WeChat.
China's official Xinhua news agency said late on Tuesday that Apple would build its second data center in China in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region after it set up a data center in the southern province of Guizhou last year.
(Reporting by Pei Li in BEIJNG and Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI; Editing by Himani Sarkar)