SoftBank Corp.'s group company controlling Yahoo Japan Corp. and major messaging app provider Line Corp. are considering merging their operations by the end of 2020, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday. Yahoo Japan operator Z Holdings Corp. under SoftBank, a mobile phone unit of SoftBank Group Corp., and Line will announce their merger plan possibly next week, the sources said. SoftBank and Line hope to expand their internet businesses including online retailing, advertising and mobile phone services, the sources said. In fiscal 2018 through March, Z Holdings posted group sales of ¥954.7 billion ($8.76 billion) while Line had sales of ¥207.1 billion in the business year that ended last December. The combined sales of Yahoo Japan and Line would be the largest among Japanese online business operators, surpassing those of e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. Line has about 164 million users of its messaging app in Japan, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, while more than 50 million people visit the Yahoo Japan website each month.
Ant Financial Services Group, the operator of Chinese mobile payment service Alipay, hopes to make it possible for users of its partner apps in Asia to make cashless payments in Japan, the company's top executive has said. The fintech company, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd., offers its payment platform for cashless purchases to 1 billion users across Asia through tie-ups with local partners. Ant Financial has investments in these partners, which operate in nine Asian markets including Thailand, South Korea, India and Indonesia. Alipay is one of the most popular payment apps in China and can be used at 300,000 shops in Japan -- a five-fold increase from August last year. But none of the apps provided by its partners can be used in Japan despite sharing the same platform, it said.
Line Corp. is betting that tie-ups with Japan's biggest financial institutions will help convince its 78 million users to entrust the free texting app with their money. The operator of Japan's most popular messaging platform plans to introduce the Line Securities equities trading service jointly with the country's biggest brokerage, Nomura Holdings Inc., this year, provided it receives the necessary government permits, Tetsuhiko Saito, who heads Line's financial arm, said in an interview in Tokyo. A banking service offered in partnership with mega-bank Mizuho Financial Group Inc. could become available as early as fall 2020, Saito said. Line dominates messaging in Japan, where about half of the people use the app daily, but user growth has stagnated. Now Chief Executive Officer Takeshi Idezawa is looking to fintech (financial technology) to help monetize the company's massive subscriber base and reduce reliance on advertising.
Taking out a wallet loaded with cash, receipts and loyalty cards and searching for coins in front of a cashier is a familiar scene at stores in Japan. But the country wants more consumers to kick that habit and engage in cashless transactions using credit cards, debit cards and electronic money. With the government seeking to double digital payments to 40 percent of all transactions by 2027 from 20 percent in 2016, the momentum for cashless payments has been rising. Why is Japan promoting a cashless society? According to the report "Cashless Vision," compiled by a panel of experts under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, cashless systems at retail stores will save manpower at a time when Japan desperately needs to improve productivity amid a labor shortage and declining population.
Rakuten Inc. got the green light Friday from a government panel to become the nation's fourth major wireless carrier, granting the e-commerce giant access to a fierce competition for subscribers alongside industry heavyweights who have long dominated the cellular market. An Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry advisory board approved Rakuten's application for a 4G mobile license, which the company had submitted in February. The decision is expected to be formally endorsed by the ministry at a later date, marking the first time a new entrant has been approved since eAccess -- now a part of SoftBank Group Corp. -- was granted bandwidth 13 years ago. The move threatens to disrupt Japan's mobile phone market oligopoly of NTT Docomo Inc., KDDI Corp. and SoftBank Corp., the last of the three being the domestic arm of tech mogul Masayoshi Son's global telecommunications and internet empire. Rakuten aims to start offering mobile services in 2019, and plans to secure up to ¥600 billion to invest in base stations.