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Japan’s Line messaging service expands into cryptocurrency trading, loans and insurance

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 10:49pm

Line Corp., Japan’s biggest messaging service, is expanding into financial services including cryptocurrency trading, loans and insurance.

The company established Line Financial Corp. on January 10 and has already applied for a license to open a cryptocurrency exchange in Japan, according to a statement on Wednesday. Line is also considering expanding its cryptocurrency operations to Hong Kong and Luxembourg next, according to people familiar with the matter.

Since Line’s listing in July 2016, the company has scaled back its global ambitions to focus on markets where it already has top share – Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. Faced with a stagnant user base, Chief Executive Officer Takeshi Idezawa has set out to transform the messaging app into an all-in-one communications and entertainment service over the next five years.

He has centred it on video and everyday services powered by artificial intelligence. Adding financial offerings may help reduce the company’s reliance on advertising revenue and offer a way to gain subscribers in countries dominated by Facebook Inc.’s Messenger and WhatsApp.

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The company plans to provide the offerings inside its messenger app, according to the statement. Some services may be offered as a stand-alone brand, the people said, asking not to be named because the details are private. The insurance business will focus on resale, centred initially on the Japanese market where commissions are high, they said.

Line is also considering applications of blockchain technology in countries with underdeveloped financial infrastructure to enable services such as the such as the ability to pay utility bills via mobile phone.

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The company said it is stepping up hiring of specialists in financial technology and blockchain around the world. It has received hundreds of applications, according to the people.

Line has been offering a smartphone wallet service since 2014. Line Pay has 40 million registered users worldwide. Transaction volume jumped to 450 billion yen ($4.1 billion) last year, bolstered by users in Taiwan who turned to the service to pay their taxes.