TOKYO -- KDDI has acquired the company that operates KidZania learning centers in Japan, the wireless carrier's latest stab at broadening its business amid a gloomy outlook for the mobile market at home.
Under a deal announced Wednesday, the Japanese company obtained a majority stake in KCJ Group, the Tokyo-based operator of the experiential learning centers, from investors including CEO and founder Einosuke Sumitani.
Headquartered in Mexico, KidZania has locations across the world. The sites allow children and teens to experience various types of work through role-playing in simulated settings.
KCJ currently operates two centers, one in Tokyo and another in Hyogo Prefecture, and intends to open a third location in Nagoya in fiscal 2020. Plans call for enhancing the user experience at the new location by leveraging the latest technologies, like the 5G communications standard and the "internet of things." Virtual reality could allow users to experience various jobs remotely, for instance.
"We will combine the experience offered at KidZania facilities with KDDI's latest technologies to help children learn about work with excitement," KDDI President Makoto Takahashi said in a statement.
The telecom carrier has been working to expand its business in order to ease its dependence on mobile services. In January, the company bought English conversation school operator Aeon Holdings for 86.1 billion yen ($764 million).
With virtual mall operator Rakuten set to become Japan's fourth major mobile carrier in the fall of next year, competition is expected to intensify and erode KDDI's income. Among the three existing carriers, KDDI is anticipated to take the biggest hit owing to a less stable subscriber base. When mobile virtual network operators started offering low-price services in Japan, KDDI suffered a notable loss in subscribers.
A few years back, KDDI earmarked 500 billion yen for investment in growth fields over the three years from fiscal 2016. It has either invested or announced plans to invest 400 billion yen in 20 companies so far, including the Aeon Holdings purchase and investment in Kakaku.com, which operates restaurant information website Tabelog in Japan.
The Tokyo-based carrier seeks to harness its telecom earnings and network to acquire expertise across a variety of industries and branch out to such areas as financial services and online shopping.