Alibaba, Tencent, and Didi have global ambitions and are making significant inroads into the land grab for SE Asia, an area with double the population of the US, high mobile penetration, and an emergent middle class. Chinese investments in technology abroad more than doubled to $38bn last year, including Alibaba paying $1bn for Singapore based e-commerce player Lazada.
Not everyone welcomes the influx. Alibaba’s and Tencent’s duel for supremacy risks inflating valuations in payments and e-commerce, shutting out all but the deepest pockets, said Peng Ong, Jakarta-based managing director at Monk’s Hill Ventures. “There will be a few companies that will get crazy valuations,’’ he said. Resentment persists against the ethnic Chinese population’s disproportionate control of the economy in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, a sentiment that’s historically erupted in violence. Others fear deep-pocketed Chinese firms will squeeze out innovative local players, given their track record.