TOKYO: Line Corp, the owner of Japan’s hugely popular Line Messenger, has revealed it has established a financial holdings firm and plans to launch in key Asian markets, amid reports it is seeking to expand into cryptocurrency trading and insurance.

This is according to reports from Bloomberg in which sources said that the company was adding financial services to its offering in addition to its application for a licence to open a cryptocurrency exchange in Japan. It also plans to expand to Hong Kong and Luxembourg.

It has not yet been decided whether the services will operate under the Line brand or will form a standalone entity, the sources added. The insurance business will focus at first on re-sales in the Japanese market, where commissions are high.

Beyond that, they said, the company is considering how it could apply blockchain technology in countries with poor financial infrastructure. As Vodafone has shown with M-Pesa in Africa, the opportunity in such a move is impressive.

Since 2014, the company has offered a wallet service, in the form of Line Pay. It has 40m users registered to the platform, which has become particularly popular in Taiwan, where many people used the service to pay their taxes last year, growing transaction volume to 300bn yen.

Though the company began with significant global ambitions, it has scaled these back since its IPO in 2016 to focus on its key markets of Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.

“We started Line messenger in 2011, in the midst of a paradigm shift brought about by smartphones,” CEO Takeshi Idezawa told an earnings briefing in Tokyo on Wednesday.

“We believe AI and fin-tech are poised for a similar paradigm shift this year and that’s where we will focus our strategic investments.” Idezawa added that the company will invest a total of 30bn yen in this area.

However, there is a new sense of risk surrounding the security of cryptocurrencies following the heist of $500m from Coincheck, a Japanese exchange.

Though Line has no plans to launch its own coin, Idezawa said, “we are looking broadly at cryptocurrencies and blockchain in our plans and discussions with potential partners.

“We plan to pursue a whole range of opportunities.”

Sourced from Bloomberg, Reuters; additional content by WARC staff