U.S. explores restrictions on Ant Group, Tencent payment platforms -Bloomberg News

(Reuters) - The US is considering restrictions on China's Ant Group as well as Tencent Holdings Ltd <0700.HK> as their digital payment platforms put national security at risk, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.
Such a move would spell a new deterioration in relations between the world's two largest economies, which have been marred by trade disputes, Hong Kong's autonomy, cybersecurity and the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The move would also illustrate how President Donald Trump's administration is now trying to prevent Chinese companies from meddling in the U.S. financial system before they become a major threat.
Last year the US cracked down on Huawei [HWT.UL] and TikTok after allowing Chinese-owned companies to become major players in US telecommunications infrastructure and social media, respectively. US officials have raised concerns that these companies may leak US citizens' information to the Chinese Communist Party government.
Both Antcent's Alipay and WeChat payment platforms are mainly used by Chinese citizens who have accounts in the Renminbi. Most of their interactions with the United States are with US merchants who accept payments from Chinese travelers and businesses.
Talks on how and whether to restrict Ant Group and Tencent's payment systems have been gaining momentum among senior U.S. officials in recent weeks, although a final decision is not imminent, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
An Ant Group spokesman said the company was "unaware of any such discussions within the administration."
"Ant Group's business is primarily in China, and we are excited about our growth prospects in the Chinese market. Our mission is to contribute to economic growth and job creation by serving ordinary consumers and small businesses," the company said.
Tencent and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. government has taken separate measures against Tencent's WeChat app. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would appeal a judge's decision to prevent the government from preventing Apple Inc. <AAPL.O> and Alphabet Inc.'s <togetLO> Google from stopping WeChat from downloading in the US -To offer app stores.
Ant Group, backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba <BABA.N>, plans to simultaneously list in Hong Kong and on the STAR market in Shanghai this month in what could be the world's largest IPO Exceeds oil giant Saudi Aramco's $ 29.4 billion float in December.
The financial technology company is looking to raise around $ 35 billion based on an early investor estimate based on a higher valuation of around $ 250 billion or more, Reuters reported.
Alibaba, which owns a third of Ant, held the news, closing 1.4% at $ 296.50 on Wednesday in New York, indicating investors have no immediate financial impact on the company saw. Ant generates 95% of its sales in China.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and C Nivedita in Bengaluru; editing by Maju Samuel and Cynthia Osterman)

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