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Japan-Update

Chat app provider Line moves into financial services

New feature being rolled out will target young investors

Line is a popular smartphone chat app with some 71 million monthly users in Japan.

TOKYO -- Line is adding a feature that trades financial instruments to its signature mobile messaging app, its latest move to broaden services for its vast base of 71 million monthly users in Japan.

Line will work with Folio, a Tokyo-based online securities brokerage. Folio recently got about 7 billion yen ($63.1 million) in funding from a group of investors including Line, U.S. financial company Goldman Sachs and Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. Line appears to have chipped in the majority of the funds, which Folio may use to hire engineers in research and development operations.

Founded in 2015, Folio offers financial products tailored to specific themes. By selecting an area of interest -- drones or maglev bullet trains, for instance -- people with little experience in personal finance can invest as little as 100,000 yen.

The new feature will likely be linked to the Line Pay platform so funds can be deposited electronically from an investment account. Line hopes to cultivate demand from people in their 20s and 30s, a major portion of its app users.

Competitors like Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding also offer asset management and small loans on their platforms.

Equities and investment trusts accounted for 16% of household assets in Japan at the end of September 2017, according to the Bank of Japan. As the Nikkei Stock Average hovers at its highest in 26 years, young Japanese are increasingly interested in investment. 

(Nikkei)

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