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Business deals

Japan's Line to add Nomura brokerage services

Planned joint venture will form part of chat platform operator's $140m fintech push

Line is a popular smartphone chat app with some 73 million monthly active users in Japan.

TOKYO -- Users of Line's messaging app will be able to buy and sell securities there with brokerage Nomura Holdings under a tie-up announced Wednesday.

Japan's 73 million monthly active Line users will have access to such Nomura vehicles as mutual funds, with diverse portfolios including individual domestic stocks as well as global equities. The partners expect to realize synergies in customer service, such as through artificial-intelligence-driven chatbot and help line services. The Line Pay mobile payment platform is also seen playing a role.

Plans are to launch a 51-49 joint venture of Line and Nomura in May.

A customer pays with a smartphone using Line Pay.

Different markets are seen as having largely settled on their chat apps of choice, making overseas expansion difficult for Line. Its user base grew 10% on the year in Japan this past December but shrank 6% for mainstay markets abroad.

So the company is focusing instead on financial technology, earmarking 15 billion yen ($140 million) for investing in the field this year. It set up a financial arm this January and has applied to become a registered cryptocurrency exchange operator. Line also aims to launch investment services for beginners in partnership with online asset manager Folio as early as the second half.

Nomura is Japan's biggest investment bank, but its account holders are mostly in their 60s to 80s. It hopes to capture a younger demographic through the partnership with Line, whose initial public offering it also underwrote in 2016.

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