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Japan-Update

Chat app Line to offer cryptocurrency trading

New subsidiary poised to run platform and other financial services

Line's existing smartphone payment service will be linked to the digital currency platform.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Mobile messaging app operator Line on Wednesday said it has established a financial subsidiary to run a cryptocurrency trading platform, along with other services.

The platform will let users buy and sell virtual currencies like bitcoin through the chat app, which is popular in Japan. Line's existing smartphone payment service will be linked to the platform.

The new company, Line Financial, is capitalized at 5 billion yen ($46.9 million). Line has not said when the trading platform will be ready, but it has already applied to the Financial Services Agency to operate a virtual currency exchange. It aims to launch the service as soon as it wins approval.

Line is gearing its financial services toward the young generations that make up the bulk of its user base.

The new unit also intends to develop blockchain technology -- the digital ledgers that underpin virtual currencies -- and sell financial products including loans and insurance. 

To lay the groundwork, Line has been expanding cooperation with financial institutions. Earlier in January, it agreed to a capital and business partnership with Folio, an online securities company, to prepare for the launch of an asset management service.

Companies in Japan are increasingly linking online services with financial operations, as they strive to keep customers within their own ecosystems. Online mall operator Rakuten has said it will acquire Asahi Fire & Marine Insurance from Nomura Holdings, a brokerage. Flea market app operator Mercari is set to allow payments in virtual currencies this year.

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