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Chinese tech giant Tencent invests in the Argentine mobile banking startup

FILE PHOTO: Pierpaolo Barbieri, founder of the Argentine mobile banking startup Uala, at his company offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci/File Photo

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

Uala founder Pierpaolo Barbieri said that the company planned to cooperate with the Chinese social-media-for-gaming giant to the further development of the app. He refused to reveal the amount of Tencent’s investment.

Tencent, one of Asia’s most valuable listed companies, announced last year, would stimulate investment in a number of “key areas”, including digital payment, where you are displaces 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 continuing to work together on new products and services. This investment will allow us to grow even faster with our product roadmap,” Barbieri said in an e-mail to Reuters.

Argentine startups face legal barriers in South America’s second-largest economy, but the country has led to a number of the region’s most successful tech startups, including the US-listed online marketplace, MercadoLibre Inc. and Internet travel agent Despegar.com Corp.

The country has a large unbanked population, is also seeing a boom in digital financing start-ups such as Uala to a new wave of online banks to compete with the more traditional lenders.

Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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