Business 17 April 2019

Ed Drake

Japan’s Rakuten opens registration for new crypto exchange, wallet

Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten has opened the registration process for its new Rakuten Wallet service, inviting customers to sign up for the crypto exchange platform prior to its launch.

According to a statement on its website, traders with a Rakuten ID and a bank account associated with their account are now invited to begin signing up for the service, which will combine crypto exchange and wallet functionality.

The announcement comes ahead of the planned launch of the Rakuten Wallet platform this June. The new service takes the place of Everybody’s Bitcoin Inc., a legacy platform Rakuten acquired back in 2018, with Rakuten Wallet designed to focus on a broader array of cryptocurrencies.

While there are still slim details of the cryptocurrencies to be supported by the new Rakuten Wallet services, it’s thought that this will go beyond the Bitcoin Core (BTC) token to encompass cryptocurrencies more suited to the consumer payments use case.

With the announcement, Rakuten becomes the latest major corporate to branch out into the crypto business. In recent months, fellow Japanese firm Yahoo! Japan announced it had taken a 40% holding in upcoming exchange TaoTao, which is expected to launch next month.

Similarly, earlier this week it was revealed that Korean exchange Bithumb had secured $200 million in funding from a Japanese investment fund which specializes in blockchain investments, in a move designed to fuel further global expansion of the firm.

The investment came at a time of ongoing challenges for crypto exchanges, as the bear market conditions continue. Led by the collapse of BTC, the decline in crypto prices across the board over the last year or so has contributed to a squeeze on margins, with some exchanges forced to lay off staff as a result.

Undeterred, the Rakuten Wallet launch is expected to be used for on-platform purchases, and could even eventually support a Rakuten-issued token.

The news comes in the same week another firm, Money Forward, Inc. announced it would no longer proceed with its exchange on account of the ongoing bear market. A statement from the board said the decision was taken in light of the rapidly cooling cryptocurrency market.

“The virtual currency market has cooled rapidly and the downside risk of profitability has been increased by continuing the business,” according to Money Forward. 

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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