Apple and Alibaba, together at last?

Bromance was in the air Monday night at WSJDLive as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alibaba CEO Jack Ma professed their admiration for each other – and said they’d like to team up on mobile payments.

Speaking in Laguna Beach at a tech conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal, Ma made the first move. Asked if it would be prudent for Alipay Wallet to join forces with Apple Pay, the CEO of the Chinese e-commerce company was effusive.

“I’m very interested in that,” he said. “As always a good marriage needs both sides hard working. I respect Apple and respect Tim very, very much.”

When it was Cook’s turn to take the stage, he seized on the proposal, and indicated that he and Ma would be moving quickly to explore it.

“We’re going to talk about getting married later this week,” he said. “I think he has brilliant people at the company so if we can find some areas of common space, I love it.”

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, and Alibaba, the firm behind the world’s largest IPO, could be a smart match. Cook has stressed Apple’s commitment to the Chinese market, traveling to the nation last week and saying he’d like to bring Apple Pay there.

Apple Pay is off to a strong start in the U.S. – Cook said at the conference that more than 1 million cards were activated in its first 72 hours last week. But introducing the service in China could prove complicated as many banks are state-owned and some consumers are wary of using anything but cash for transactions,  Anna Han, an associate professor at the University of Santa Clara who specializes in Chinese law, told the Mercury News last week. Seems like Alibaba’s Alipay service, already popular in China, could be just the thing to help open the door.

Above: Alibaba CEO Jack Ma said he’d love for his company to team up with Apple (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images).


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