WeBank, the online lender set up by Chinese Internet giant Tencent, has extended more than 800 million yuan (130 million U.S. dollars) in micro loans over the past two months, the lender said on Monday.
The loans were made on Tencent's QQ, a popular online instant messaging app. QQ users can apply through the mobile application and get up to 200,000 yuan in credit that does not require collateral or a guarantee, and with the interest rate calculated daily at 0.05 percent.
Tencent and its rival Alibaba have both opened their own banks this year as part of a program initiated by Chinese financial regulators to nurture private lenders to address the funding needs of China's small firms. Such companies have long been under-served by the country's large, state lenders.
Tencent said the loans have been extended to "hundreds of thousands" of QQ users, without disclosing an exact number.
How much credit each applicant is allowed varies in line with their creditworthiness calculated through user data Tencent has accumulated on its online platforms.
This includes ID, behavior on QQ and data from third-party providers, according to Ma Zhitao, WeBank's chief information officer.
While Tencent has been developing this credit check system behind the scenes for some time, it said it was planning to formally launch it soon.
Alibaba has also rolled out similar checks on its payment app to help assess whether to extend credit.
Such services are encouraged by Chinese regulators as they complement the central bank's credit profile database. Many small firms and individuals are not covered in the central bank's system and Internet lenders are making a case that behavior recorded on social networking sites, online shopping and instant messaging could gauge people's creditworthiness.
"Data accumulated on the Internet can make a significant contribution to existing credit profiles and it can be helpful in controlling risks in the financial market," said Lyu Qisui, a professor of finance at Peking University.