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Explainer: China UnionPay, Russia’s potential payments backstop

UnionPay playing cards are found exhibited with a Russian flag in this illustration photograph taken March 7, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

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HONG KONG, April 21 (Reuters) – Numerous Russian financial institutions system to problem payment playing cards that use the community of China UnionPay as effectively as that of dwelling-developed payment technique Mir, after Visa Inc (V.N) and MasterCard Inc (MA.N) joined other Western companies in suspending functions in Russia. study a lot more

UnionPay and Mir are between handful of choices still left for Russians to make payments overseas because Russian financial institutions had been isolated from the world economic procedure adhering to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “exclusive operation”. read far more

While several Western nations have condemned Russia’s conduct, ally China has refrained from immediate criticism, proficiently allowing for Chinese organizations these as UnionPay to proceed enterprise as typical with Russian partners.

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Numerous Russian creditors presently issue cards with UnionPay. Nonetheless, the Chinese payment company is wary of cooperating with sanctioned Russian banking companies for panic that could guide to by itself becoming sanctioned, the RBC enterprise everyday reported on Wednesday, citing 5 unidentified persons at important Russian banking companies.

UnionPay did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

China authorized the central bank’s creation of UnionPay as a coalition of banking operators in 2002 to permit domestic inter-bank transactions and settlements throughout various platforms.

Funded by the governing administration and China’s biggest commercial loan companies, UnionPay clears and settles payments straight with banks and accredited loan companies by issuing debit, credit score and pay as you go cards.

It has 87 shareholders which include affiliate marketers of the People’s Financial institution of China, commercial loan providers these kinds of as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (601398.SS) and China Design Lender Corp (601939.SS), and rural credit rating vendors.

It relished a monopoly ahead of China allowed international payment networks to set up onshore operations in 2020, and in current many years has swiftly expanded abroad.

UnionPay ranked initial by selection of playing cards in circulation worldwide as at the conclude of 2021 with 9.4 billion, confirmed data from researcher Nilson. Visa experienced 3.7 billion and Mastercard 2.5 billion.

Improved Chinese tourism spurred UnionPay to establish offshore ties with banking companies and merchants, very first in Hong Kong in 2004 and United States in 2005.

In 2012, UnionPay founded overseas arm UnionPay Intercontinental which has shaped partnerships with over 2,500 institutions around the world, creating the card acknowledged in 180 territories, UnionPay’s web site confirmed.

UnionPay playing cards are issued in over 70 nations and areas, it mentioned.

Its enlargement has involved many European money companies together with HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBA.L), Barclays PLC (BARC.L), Travelex and Moneycorp. UnionPay card holders can withdraw sterling in Britain from Barclays and Travelex hard cash equipment.

Holders of UnionPay playing cards issued by HSBC can also make withdrawals from that bank’s money equipment in Britain.

UnionPay is quickly catching up with world-wide opponents in absolute quantity processed, benefiting largely from the mounting getting power of Chinese potential buyers domestically and abroad.

About 40% of world-wide card purchase transaction quantity was via Visa in 2020, but UnionPay is a close second at 32%, followed by MasterCard at 24%, Nilson data showed.

About 55 million merchants globally settle for UnionPay playing cards as of March 2021. Acceptance coverage is 95% in Russia where around 1.6 million issue-of-sale terminals assistance UnionPay QuickPass payment technology, UnionPay statements confirmed. A lot more than 4 million UnionPay cards have been issued in Russia, it said.

The high penetration rate has prompted Russian financial institutions to turn to UnionPay following Western nations imposed an array of sanctions.

Countrywide Financial institution of Ukraine (NBU), a UnionPay companion, publicly asked UnionPay to stop processing transactions in Russia and all those involving playing cards issued by Russian banking companies and utilised overseas.

“We kindly talk to you to make a contribution into restoring peace in Ukraine and stop your operation in the Russian Federation,” NBU Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko reported in a March 17 assertion.

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Reporting by Selena Li in Hong Kong Further reporting by Sinead Cruise in London Modifying by Sumeet Chatterjee and Christopher Cushing

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