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Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos-backed fund invests in a global geothermal energy project developer

Posted by on Mar 3, 2019 in Alphabet, Bill Gates, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, dandelion energy, electricity, Energy, geothermal energy, jack ma, Japan, jeff bezos, spokesperson, steel, TC, United States | 0 comments

Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the investment firm financed by billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Jack Ma that invests in companies developing technologies to decarbonize society, is investing $12.5 million in a geothermal project development company called Baseload Capital.

Baseload Capital is a project investment firm that provides capital to develop geothermal energy power plants using technology developed by its Swedish parent company, Climeon.

Like the spinoff from Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Dandelion Energy, which recently raised $16 million in a new round of financing, Climeon builds standardized machines to tap geothermal energy. But Dandelion is targeting consumers with its technology to provide home heating, while Climeon turns geothermal energy into electricty.

The company’s modules — which stand around two meters cubed, produce 150 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to power roughly 250 European households, according to a company spokesperson.

Climeon, which was founded back in 2011, formed Baseload Capital about a year ago to invest in special purpose vehicles to build the power plants that use Climeon’s technology. Baseload takes an equity stake in these companies and provides debt financing for them.

Through its investment into Baseload Capital, Breakthrough Energy Ventures will help finance and develop these small-scale power plants globally (Baseload has already formed special purpose vehicles that are developing projects in Japan).

Climeon and Baseload Capital focus on three primary industries — geothermal, shipping and heavy industry. “We sell our machines to the [maritime industry] where we turn the waste heat from the engines into electricity (Virgin Voyages has bought several systems), to industries such as steel where they also have a lot of waste heat and then to companies that develop and operate geothermal power plants,” a Climeon spokesperson wrote in an email. “This could be a newly formed SPV or an existing energy company. In the U.S., for example, our modules will be used in an existing geothermal site.”

The company’s pitch is that it’s modular units make it easy to scale up or decommission plants. Modules list for EUR350,000 and customers also spend EUR5,000 per-module, per-year on Climeon’s power plant management software.

So far, the company says it has an order backlog of roughly $88 million.

The investment in Baseload Capital is Breakthrough Energy’s second foray into the geothermal industry. Last year, the company backed Fervo Energy, which uses proven technologies to help speed the development of geothermal energy at a cost of 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour.

“We believe that a baseload resource such as low temperature geothermal heat power has the potential to transform the energy landscape. Baseload Capital, together with Climeon’s innovative technology, has the potential to deliver GHG-free electricity at large scale, economically and efficiently,” said Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, in a statement.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Revolut CFO resigns following money laundering controversy

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in Bank, Banking, ceo, challenger bank, Drama, Europe, Finance, Financial Conduct Authority, financial services, Japan, jp morgan, money, monzo, N26, North America, reporter, Revolut, Singapore, TC, the telegraph, TransferWise, United Kingdom | 0 comments

This hasn’t been a good week for challenger bank Revolut . The company, which offers digital banking services and is valued at $1.7 billion, confirmed today that embattled CFO Peter O’Higgins has resigned and left the business.

The startup and O’Higgins have been under pressure after a Daily Telegraph report that revealed that Revolt switched off an anti-money laundering system that flags suspect transactions because it was prone to throwing out false positives.

According to the Telegraph, the system was inactive between July-September 2018, which potentially allowed illegal transactions to pass across the banking platform. Revolut did not contact the Financial Conduct Authority to inform the regulator of the lapse, Telegraph reporter James Cook said.

O’Higgins, who joined the company from JP Morgan three years ago, made no mention of the saga in his resignation statement:

Having been at Revolut for almost three years, I am immensely proud to have taken the company from £1m revenue to £50m revenue during this time. However, as Revolut begins to scale globally and applies to become a bank in multiple jurisdictions, the time has come to pass the reigns over to someone who has global retail banking experience at this level. My time at Revolut has been invaluable and I’m so proud of what myself and the team have achieved. There is no doubt in my mind that Revolut will go on to build one of the largest and most trusted financial institutions in the world.

In a separate statement received by TechCrunch, Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky said that O’Higgins had been “absolutely pivotal to our success.”

The resignation caps a terrible few days for Revolut, which was the subject of a report from Wired earlier this week that delved into allegations around its challenging workplace culture and high employee churn rate.

“Former Revolut employees say this high-speed growth has come at a high human cost – with unpaid work, unachievable targets, and high-staff turnover,” wrote guest reporter Emiliano Mellino, citing the experiences of numerous former employees.

Those incidents included prospective staff being told to canvass for new customers as part of the interview process. The candidates were not compensated for their efforts, according to Wired. Revolut later removed the demands from its hiring processes.

Revolut is headquartered in the UK, where it launched its service in the summer of 2015. Today, it claims over four million registered users across Europe — it is available in EEA countries — although it plans to extend its presence to other parts of the world are taking longer than expected.

The company said last year it aims to launch in Singapore and Japan in Q1 of this year — so far neither has happened — while it also harbors North American market plans. Entries to the U.S. and Canada were supposed to happen by the end of 2018, according to an interview with Storonsky at TechCrunch Disrupt in September, but they also appear to have been delayed.

Revolut is generally considered to be the largest challenger bank in Europe, in terms of valuation and registered users, but other rivals include N26, Monzo and Starling. Even Transferwise, the global remittance service, now includes border-less banking features and an accompanying debit card.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Toyota’s new car subscription company Kinto is gamifying driving behavior

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in Automotive, automotive industry, Japan, lexus, mobility services, subscription services, tokyo, Toyota, Transportation, volvo | 0 comments

Toyota has officially launched Kinto, a company first revealed late last year that will manage a car subscription program and other mobility services in Japan, including the sale and purchase of used vehicles as well as automotive repair and inspection.

Kinto is jointly funded by Toyota Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota, and Sumitomo Mitsui Auto Service Company, a member of the Sumitomo Corporation Group. Initial funding for Kinto is 1.8 billion yen, or about $16 million, according to Toyota.

The creation of Kinto marks a shift that began a couple of years ago within the automotive industry to look beyond the traditional business of producing, financing and selling cars and trucks. Other automakers have experimented with car subscription services with mixed success. Volvo’s Care by Volvo has been a standout success. While Cadillac shut its service “Book by Cadillac” down, although it has plans for a reboot.

Unlike other subscription programs, Kinto has gamified the service. The company is planning to introduce a service this fall that will award points to customers based on how they drive. Toyota doesn’t explain how safe or “ecological” driving would be tracked, but the assumption is that the vehicles would be equipped with connected-car technology that can monitor driving. Points can be applied toward payments, the company said.

“As society shifts from conventional car ownership to car usage that can be enjoyed wherever and as much as users would like, there is a growing need for a service that allows customers to freely select the car that they like or want to drive and enjoy it as they like, instead of using a car simply as a means of transportation,” Toyota said in its announcement.

Toyota’s Kinto will offer two subscription services in Japan. (The service isn’t headed for Europe or the U.S.) Kinto One will allow customers to drive one Toyota-brand vehicle over a three-year period. The service will offer access to the Prius, Corolla Sport, Alphard, Vellfire, and Crown models. The line-up will expand by fall 2019. Customers who go for Kinto One will pay between 46,100 yen ($419) and 99,000 yen ($901) a month before taxes, depending on the vehicle brand.

“Kinto Select” will give customers access to six models of Lexus -brand vehicles over a three-year period. The Kinto Select service costs 180,000 yen, or $1,638, a month.

Both services will be offered as a monthly fixed-sum service that packages voluntary insurance payments, vehicle tax, registration charges, and regularly scheduled maintenance of the vehicle.

Kinto will launch with the higher-end plan, beginning Wednesday. The Kinto One plan will be added as an option on March 1. Both services will be deployed on a trial basis through select Toyota dealers and Lexus dealers in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Kinto plans to rollout the services to the rest of Japan this summer.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Nintendo to open its first official store located in Japan

Posted by on Feb 1, 2019 in Gadgets, Gaming, Japan, Nintendo, Nintendo Tokyo, TC, video games | 0 comments

Fourteen years after unveiling its first location in New York, Nintendo is finally opening an official store in Japan, too. Nintendo Tokyo will be located in Shibuya Parco, the new flagship of the Parco department store chain. Nintendo Tokyo is scheduled to open at the same time as the shopping center in fall.

In an announcement, Nintendo said “we are preparing to make this store, which will be a new base for communicating Nintendo information in Japan, an enjoyable place for a wide range of consumers.” In addition to games, consoles, accessories like amiibo, and branded merchandise, Nintendo Tokyo will also host gaming kiosks and events (if the New York store, in Rockefeller Center, is anything to go by, these might include tournaments, demos, and launches).

Nintendo recently posted strong third-quarter revenue growth, but also cut its Switch forecast for the year. Sales may pick up again, however, if Nintendo releases a smaller and less expensive version of the console, as Japanese financial publication Nikkei reported it plans to do.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Chat app Line’s mobile payment service is getting its own Visa card

Posted by on Jan 30, 2019 in alibaba, alibaba group, alipay, Apps, Asia, China, E-Commerce, economy, Japan, King, mobile payments, money, online payments, payments, points, Tencent, visa, WeChat | 0 comments

Brown, Cony and the gang are coming to a credit card near you in Japan. Line, the messaging app company behind the cute sticker characters, announced today that it is bringing its payment service to plastic through a tie-in with Visa.

Line is Japan’s largest chat app with an estimated 50 million registered users. The cards will be released later this year and they’ll allow Line Pay, the company’s digital wallet service, to stretch beyond its existing merchant base to allow users to pay at any retailer accepting Visa . In addition, the first year of use will see customers get 3 percent of their spending back in Line’s ‘Points’ virtual currency, which is used to buy stickers and other content.

The partnership is a step up from Line’s own payment cards, which were introduced in 2016 and supported by JCB.

It’s an interesting deal because mobile is generally seen as being the future form factor for payments. In China, for example, using cash or card to pay is considered antiquated — you’ll get glares from other patrons forced to wait while you complete your transaction — but digital payments face a struggle in most other markets.

WeChat and Alipay have become de facto in China, but retailers — and particularly smaller ones — don’t always have the awareness, confidence or resources to add support for Line or other digital wallets. Japan, where cash is still king, is perhaps most emblematic of that struggle. The government is making a sustained push towards cashless — particularly ahead of the 2020 Olympics — and Line, as the country’s dominant chat app, may help that along with this partnership.

Line wrapped up a deal with WeChat last November that allows users of the China-based chat app to make payment via Line Pay points of sale. Tencent’s WeChat and Alipay from Alibaba have spent recent years developing a system that lets Chinese tourists pay while they are overseas.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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American Express acquires Japan-based restaurant booking service Pocket Concierge

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in 500 startups, American Express, Asia, cake, chef, concierge, economy, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, head, james riney, Japan, Mezi, money, OpenTable | 0 comments

American Express has made an acquisition in Japan after it picked up restaurant booking service Pocket Concierge in an undisclosed deal.

The acquisition was announced in Japanese and in English by James Riney, the head of 500 Startups Japan which invested in Pocket Concierge as one of its first deals in the country.

The service was launched in 2013 to help book quality restaurants, including those that are Michelin-starred and others that have months-long waitlists for reservations. It currently works with 800 restaurants and is available in Japanese, English and Chinese, its closest competitors include OpenTable and local operator TableAll.

American Express said Pocket Concierge will continue as a wholly owned subsidiary. It plans to integrate the business with its card membership services.

Pocket Menu, the parent company, raised a $600,000 seed round, which included 500 Startups and others, before going on to raise an undisclosed Series A and other investments. Founder Kei Tokado is a former chef, and he was joined by co-founder and CFO Tatsuro Koyama in 2015.

“When we were just getting started, we talked about the opportunity for cross-border M&A in Japan. For foreign companies, acquiring locally is a viable way to unlock value in this country. A lot of people rightfully doubted that possibility, as it is so uncommon. Pocket Concierge not only proved that it is possible, but they also found a home at one of the world’s most well-respected companies,” Riney — the 500 Startups lead — wrote.

American Express acquisitions from last year included travel assistant Mezi and U.K-based fintech startup Cake.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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President Bolsonaro should boost Brazil’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in Amazon, Australia, Bank, Brazil, chicago, chief, Chile, Column, Congress, department of justice, executive, Finance, General Partner, head, Japan, Latin America, Ministry of Economy, petrobras, Politics, president, sao paulo, Singapore, South Korea, switzerland, The New York Times, the wall street journal, United States, University of Chicago, Venture Capital | 0 comments

In late October following a significant victory for Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential elections, the stock market for Latin America’s largest country shot up. Financial markets reacted favorably to the news because Bolsonaro, a free-market proponent, promises to deliver broad economic reforms, fight corruption and work to reshape Brazil through a pro-business agenda. While some have dubbed him as a far-right “Trump of the Tropics” against a backdrop of many Brazilians feeling that government has failed them, the business outlook is extremely positive.

When President-elect Bolsonaro appointed Santander executive Roberto Campos as new head of Brazil’s central bank in mid-November, Brazil’s stock market cheered again with Sao Paulo’s Bovespa stocks surging as much as 2.65 percent on the day news was announced. According to Reuters, “analysts said Bolsonaro, a former army captain and lawmaker who has admitted to having scant knowledge of economics, was assembling an experienced economic team to implement his plans to slash government spending, simplify Brazil’s complex tax system and sell off state-run companies.”

Admittedly, there are some challenges as well. Most notably, pension-system reform tops the list of priorities to get on the right track quickly. A costly pension system is increasing the country’s debt and contributed to Brazil losing its investment-grade credit rating in 2015. According to the new administration, Brazil’s domestic product could grow by 3.5 percent during 2019 if Congress approves pension reform soon. The other issue that’s cropped up to tarnish the glow of Bolsonaro coming into power are suspect payments made to his son that are being examined by COAF, the financial crimes unit.

While the jury is still out on Bolsonaro’s impact on Brazilian society at large after being portrayed as the Brazilian Trump by the opposition party, he’s come across as less authoritarian during his first days in office. Since the election, his tone is calmer and he’s repeatedly said that he plans to govern for all Brazilians, not just those who voted for him. In his first speech as president, he invited his wife to speak first which has never happened before.

Still, according to The New York Times, “some Brazilians remain deeply divided on the new president, a former army captain who has hailed the country’s military dictators and made disparaging remarks about women and minority groups.”

Others have expressed concern about his environment impact with the “an assault on environmental and Amazon protections” through an executive order within hours of taking office earlier this week. However, some major press outlets have been more upbeat: “With his mix of market-friendly economic policies and social conservativism at home, Mr. Bolsonaro plans to align Brazil more closely with developed nations and particularly the U.S.,” according to the Wall Street Journal this week.

Based on his publicly stated plans, here’s why President Bolsonaro will be good for business and how his administration will help build an even stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in Brazil:

Bolsonaro’s Ministerial Reform

President Temer leaves office with 29 government ministries. President Bolsonaro plans to reduce the number of ministries to 22, which will reduce spending and make the government smaller and run more efficiently. We expect to see more modern technology implemented to eliminate bureaucratic red tape and government inefficiencies.

Importantly, this will open up more partnerships and contracting of tech startups’ solutions. Government contacts for new technology will be used across nearly all the ministries including mobility, transportation, health, finance, management and legal administration – which will have a positive financial impact especially for the rich and booming SaaS market players in Brazil.

Government Company Privatization

Of Brazil’s 418 government-controlled companies, there are 138 of them on the federal level that could be privatized. In comparison to Brazil’s 418, Chile has 25 government-controlled companies, the U.S. has 12, Australia and Japan each have eight, and Switzerland has four. Together, Brazil-owned companies employ more than 800,000 people today, including about 500,000 federal employees. Some of the largest ones include petroleum company Petrobras, electric utilities company EletrobrasBanco do Brasil, Latin America’s largest bank in terms of its assets, and Caixa Economica Federal, the largest 100 percent government-owned financial institution in Latin America.

The process of privatizing companies is known to be cumbersome and inefficient, and the transformation from political appointments to professional management will surge the need for better management tools, especially for enterprise SaaS solutions.

STEAM Education to Boost Brazil’s Tech Talent

Based on Bolsonaro’s original plan to move the oversight of university and post-graduate education from the Education Ministry to the Science and Technology Ministry, it’s clear the new presidential administration is favoring more STEAM courses that are focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics.

Previous administrations threw further support behind humanities-focused education programs. Similar STEAM-focused higher education systems from countries such as Singapore and South Korea have helped to generate a bigger pipeline of qualified engineers and technical talent badly needed by Brazilian startups and larger companies doing business in the country. The additional tech talent boost in the country will help Brazil better compete on the global stage.

The Chicago Boys’ “Super” Ministry

The merger of the Ministry of Economy with the Treasury, Planning and Industry and Foreign Trade and Services ministries will create a super ministry to be run by Dr. Paulo Guedes and his team of Chicago Boys. Trained at the Department of Economics in the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, the Chicago Boys are a group of prominent Chilean economists who are credited with transforming Chile into Latin America’s best performing economies and one of the world’s most business-friendly jurisdictions. Joaquim Levi, the recently appointed chief of BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank), is also a Chicago Boy and a strong believer in venture capital and startups.

Previously, Guedes was a general partner in Bozano Investimentos, a pioneering private equity firm, before accepting the invitation to take the helm of the world’s eighth-largest economy in Brazil. To have a team of economists who deeply understand the importance of rapid-growth companies is good news for Brazil’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This group of 30,000 startup companies are responsible for 50 percent of the job openings in Brazil and they’re growing far faster than the country’s GDP.

Bolsonaro’s Pro-Business Cabinet Appointments

President Bolsonaro has appointed a majority of technical experts to be part of his new cabinet. Eight of them have strong technology backgrounds, and this deeper knowledge of the tech sector will better inform decisions and open the way to more funding for innovation.

One of those appointments, Sergio Moro, is the federal judge for the anti-corruption initiative knows as “Operation Car Wash.” With Moro’s nomination to Chief of the Justice Department and his anticipated fight against corruption could generate economic growth and help reduce unemployment in the country. Bolsonaro’s cabinet is also expected to simplify the crazy and overwhelming tax system. More than 40 different taxes could be whittled down to a dozen, making it easier for entrepreneurs to launch new companies.

In general terms, Brazil and Latin America have long suffered from deep inefficiencies. With Bolsonaro’s administration, there’s new promise that there will be an increase in long-term infrastructure investments, reforms to reduce corruption and bureaucratic red tape, and enthusiasm and support for startup investments in entrepreneurs who will lead the country’s fastest-growing companies and make significant technology advancements to “lift all boats.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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SoftBank Corp shares drop 14% on their first day of trading, but it’s still one of the largest IPOs ever

Posted by on Dec 19, 2018 in Fundings & Exits, IPO, Japan, softbank corp, SoftBank Group, TC, Vision Fund | 0 comments

SoftBank Corp’s initial public offering today started with a bang before trailing off into a whimper, with the stock falling 14.5 percent during its first day of trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The company is the mobile unit of conglomerate SoftBank Group, whose holdings also include Sprint and the $100 billion Vision Fund.

Shares of SoftBank Corp opened at 1,463 yen, below the 1,500 yen the company had set for its IPO price (instead of a range), and closed at 1,282 yen. It offered 160 million shares, or about a third of the total held by parent company SoftBank Group. Despite a bumpy first day of trading, SoftBank Corp raised a total of 2.65 trillion yen (about $23.5 billion), making it Japan’s largest ever IPO and placing it just behind Alibaba’s record-setting $25 billion debut on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 (SoftBank Group is one of Alibaba’s largest shareholders).

According to Bloomberg, 90 percent of the investors who bought SoftBank Corp shares at the 1,500 yen opening price were individuals, who the company had targeted with an unusual marketing campaign.

Factors that may have dampened investor enthusiasm include a network outage earlier this month triggered by a shutdown of Ericsson equipment due to expired software certificates (O2 customers in Great Britain were also affected).

The outage underscored other concerns about SoftBank Corp’s telecommunications infrastructure. According to a Nikkei report published last week, the company has decided to stop using hardware from Huawei Technologies due to security concerns and replace them over the next several years with equipment by Ericsson and Nokia.

While the company claims the hardware swap isn’t expected to cost a lot of money, it will also need to deal with more competition next year. SoftBank Corp’s rivals are currently NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, but Rakuten will launch cellular service in October 2019, making it Japan’s fourth mobile network operator.

Furthermore, SoftBank Group also carries massive debt that totaled 18 trillion yen (about $160 billion) as of the end of September, more than six times the amount it earns on an operating basis. This means the Vision Fund is especially reliant on Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund, which contributed $48 billion, making it the fund’s largest investor.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund, called the Public Investment Fund, is run by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been implicated by Turkish officials and the United State’s Central Intelligence Agency in the planning of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Crown Prince bin Salman has denied involvement in the killing, but the situation still calls into question the future of Saudi Arabia’s involvement with SoftBank, especially since Crown Prince bin Salman said in October that Saudi Arabia plans to invest another $45 billion in the second Vision Fund.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Salesforce doubles down on Japan with dedicated $100M fund

Posted by on Dec 6, 2018 in ABEJA, Asia, Business, economy, entrepreneurship, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, Google, Japan, Salesforce Ventures, salesforce.com, Sansan, Southeast Asia, Startup company, United States | 0 comments

It’s been a good week for Japanese startups. Fresh from Google making a rare investment in the country when it backed AI startup Abeja, so Salesforce — another U.S. tech titan — has announced a $100 million fund for enterprise startups in Japan.

The Japan Trailblazer Fund is Salesforce Venture’s first local fund in Asia. The firm’s VC arm has backed 40 startups in Japan since 2011, that’s a fractional of its portfolio of over 275 startups. While, at $100 million, the Japan fund is also a small part of the overall investment thesis which has seen Salesforce Ventures plow over $1 billion into companies worldwide.

Nevertheless, the dedicated focus on Japan is positive news for the country, which has struggled to attract overseas investors despite running the world’s third-largest economy based on GDP. For Salesforce, Japan’s public cloud services market is expected to increase more than two-fold to reach $13 billion by 2022, according to figures from IDC.

Salesforce Ventures’ existing portfolio includes startups like accounting service Freee, which raised $60 million in August, and contact management business Sansan, which this week closed $26.5 million for expansion into Southeast Asia.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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WeChat e-wallet teams up with Line to target Japan’s 7M Chinese tourists

Posted by on Nov 27, 2018 in alibaba, alibaba group, alipay, Asia, China, Finance, Japan, mobile payments, online payments, payments, TechCrunch, Tencent, Thailand, WeChat, yahoo japan | 0 comments

China’s biggest chat app WeChat is set to make its payments service more ubiquitous in Japan, a popular outbound desitnation for Chinese tourists.

On Tuesday, the Tencent-run messenger unveils a partnership with Japan’s Line chat app on mobile payments. The tie-up allows Japanese brick-and-mortar merchants with a Line Pay terminal to process WeChat Pay transactions directly. Instead of going through the hassle of currency swaps, a Chinese customer can simply summon the WeChat app and pay by scanning a QR code the retailer presents.

The fresh alliance is hot on the heels of a similar gesture from Tencent’s most serious rival, Alibaba. In September, the Chinese ecommerce giant’s payments affiliate Alipay teamed up with Yahoo Japan in an effort to grab Chinese outbound travelers.

Tencent did not provide information on the number of potential Japanese retailers reached through the scheme when inquired by TechCrunch . But the firm says its setup with Line Pay allows small and medium-sized businesses to adopt mobile payments at relatively low costs because it doesn’t require merchants to purchase QR code scanners.

Both WeChat Pay and Alipay have already been going it alone in Japan over the past few years. WeChat Pay, for instance, claims that it scored a six-fold increase in the number of transactions in Japan between June 2017 and 2018.

On the other hand, having an ally with an extensive local reach can help Alibaba and Tencent capitalize on a wave of increasingly sophisticated Chinese tourists.

The partnership with Line “significantly boosts WeChat Pay’s penetration among small and medium-sized retailers and its application in more daily scenarios, rather than serving Chinese people only at traditional tourism hotspots,” says a Tencent spokesperson. “This strategy is in line with an upgraded demand from Chinese people to travel like locals.”

Japan’s appeal to Chinese people is on the rise. During China’s weeklong “Golden Week” national holiday in October, Japan leapfrogged Thailand for the first time to become the most popular destination for Chinese tourists, according to a report from Chinese online travel agency Ctrip. In 2017, the Japan National Tourism Organization recorded a total of 7.36 million Chinese tourists, who made up more than a quarter of all visitors to Japan that year.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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