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Japanese E-Commerce Giant Rakuten Group Opts to Invest in Bitcoin Exchanges

Benson Toti

Japan’s biggest online retailer has dipped its toe into the world of cryptocurrency by announcing plans to purchase a Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange. Rakuten is an e-commerce behemoth, with the Rakuten Group consisting of 70 businesses as well as Japan’s largest online bank and its third-biggest credit card company by transaction value. Its history with digital payments means that owning and operating a Bitcoin exchange makes perfect sense for the brand.

Everybody’s Bitcoin, which was founded in December 2016, opened its doors in March 2017. At the time of writing, Everybody’s Bitcoin is not on the list of approved licensed Bitcoin exchanges overseen by the country’s Financial Services Agency (FSA). The FSA was also involved in a serious probe of the exchange’s operations when it was hacked by Coincheck at the turn of the New Year. Nevertheless, the Rakuten Group’s official announcement this week confirms their $2.4 million acquisition of Traders Investment, Inc. which is the parent company of Everybody’s Bitcoin. Historically, it has not been the most profitable of Bitcoin exchanges, reporting a 49 million Japanese Yen loss at the end of their 2017/18 financial year. Nevertheless, with the Rakuten brand fully behind it, there’s no doubt its long-term future looks prosperous.

Rakuten: Invested in cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech

The purchase will be effective from 1st October 2018 and will see Rakuten take full ownership of the Bitcoin exchange’s 5,100 shares. Rakuten’s current service offerings extend from digital content and communications through to travel and leisure and fintech. They have invested heavily in the technology that underpins Bitcoin and other leading crypto coins, blockchain, establishing its inaugural Rakuten Blockchain Lab in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The move saw Rakuten opt to invest in exploratory projects regarding ground-breaking, disruptive applications on the blockchain for the e-commerce and fintech industries. The Rakuten Group is confident that “cryptocurrency-based payments in e-commerce, offline retail and in P2P payments will grow in the future” and the acquisition of Everybody’s Bitcoin is a chance for the group to steal a march on its global competitors.

Within the Rakuten Group’s press release, the organisation cited “a growing number of customers” had been “calling for the provision of a cryptocurrency exchange service”. The release continued by saying that “in order to provide cryptocurrency payment methods smoothly” it was important for the group to “provide a cryptocurrency exchange function”. It would appear plans are afoot for the Rakuten Group to seek registration of Everybody’s Bitcoin with the Japanese FSA within a matter of months whilst developing crypto services including the opportunity to buy Bitcoin and altcoins for Rakuten customers by joining the dots between their respective organisations.

The Rakuten Group already welcomes payments via Bitcoin and has done so for more than three years since implementing its online platform with Bitnet, a highly reputable Bitcoin payment processing third party. 2018 has been a big year for the brand in terms of its own cryptocurrency brand, with the launch of its own loyalty-driven Rakuten Coin for regular customers. In recent years, Rakuten has invested heavily in acquisitions involving disruptive tech and fintech start-ups. It invested $100 million in Pinterest some six years ago and also helped mobile messaging application, Viber Media off the ground with its acquisition back in 2014.

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