Japan’s largest e-commerce platform, Rakuten, has announced that it will buy Everybody’s Bitcoin Inc, a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange, through its credit card subsidiary, Rakuten Card.
Everybody’s Bitcoin started providing cryptocurrency exchange services in March 2017, and it is now operating as a cryptocurrency exchange with applications for registration pending. Everybody’s Bitcoin received a business improvement order from the Kanto Local Finance Bureau in April and is currently making improvements.
Rakuten Group has expanded its unique Rakuten ecosystem by providing banking, securities, and insurance services, as well as various Fintech services, including electronic money. In addition, as part of its point reward system, which is popular across Japan, Rakuten Group has long promoted activities to provide Rakuten service users with reward points called Rakuten Super Points that can be used across a range of Rakuten services. The Rakuten Coin initiative, which converts reward points into tokens using blockchain technology, is also underway.
Rakuten is said to be focusing on the potential of cryptocurrencies to function as means of payment for e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores, and peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions. It is believed Rakuten wants exposure to cryptocurrency exchange operations because the underlying exchange infrastructure will assist the company in delivering those cryptocurrency-based payment solutions.
Another reason for Rakuten’s decision is a growing expectation among Rakuten Securities customers that the company will provide opportunities to invest in cryptocurrencies.
Rakuten has facilitated research on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for some years, while promoting Fintech businesses. In August 2016, Rakuten announced the opening of Rakuten Blockchain Lab, a UK based research and development organization dedicated to blockchain technologies. In July this year, the media reported Rakuten’s plan to launch a cryptocurrency business in Russia using its own cryptocurrency Rakuten Coin through Viber. Viber is a free messaging and calling service provided by Viber Media Ltd — also a Rakuten subsidiary.
In Japan, the Financial Services Agency of Japan is considering increasing its headcount in response to establishing the Fintech Business Monitoring Office and a Chief Financial Inspector as part of efforts to tighten controls on cryptocurrency exchanges beginning in 2019. How the entry of one of Japan’s largest companies into the cryptocurrency exchange industry will impact the domestic market is attracting increasing attention.
Purchasing or developing exchanges appears to be one of the preferred channels by which listed Japanese companies expand into the crypto sector. The Rakuten news follows the revelation by Japanese messaging giant Line in July that it would launch its own exchange BitBox, and the purchase of distressed exchange Coincheck by Monex Group in April.
In related news, Line has announced the launch of its own cryptocurrency LINK, which it will provide as an activity reward for users within the Line ecosystem. Line says LINK can be used as payment for soon to launch Dapps and service categories like contents, commerce, social and gaming. A total of 1 billion LINK will be issued, the company says, of that amount, 800 million will be allocated for user rewards, while 200 million will be managed by Line as a reserve