Japan’s flea market operator Mercari buys payments app Origami

Photo: Reuters

Japanese flea market app operator Mercari Inc is buying rival cashless payments business Origami for an undisclosed sum, continuing consolidation in the fast-growing sector.

Loss-making Mercari has almost 15 million users of its eponymous fleamarket app, which allows people to trade used items via their smartphones, and plans to merge Origami Pay with its integrated Merpay service.

Merpay has 5 million users but is encountering stiff competition from the aggressive expansion of SoftBank’s PayPay, which has run campaigns offering big rebates on purchases through its app.

The Origami acquisition announced on Thursday comes as money-losing Mercari looks to make headway in the United States, where it competes with the likes of eBay and Craigslist.

Origami, which is unlisted and has investors including credit card company Credit Saison, has not disclosed user numbers for its service, which allows users to make payments by scanning QR codes that have become common in countries such as China and India.

SoftBank’s domestic wireless business last year said it would merge Line Pay operator Line Corp with its internet subsidiary, leaving Mercari and other smaller players, such as Origami, looking increasingly underweight as the Japanese government encourages consumers to shift away from their reliance on cash.

While users have long used digital payments services such as East Japan Railway’s Suica service for train tickets and other purchases, no method has yet achieved broader dominance, with retailers slow to move beyond cash and credit cards.

Armed with ample cash flow, SoftBank has signed up 23 million users since its first 10 billion yen ($90 million) rebate campaign led to queues at discount electronics retailers.

One unsuccessful attempt to attract users to digital payments was by convenience store operator Seven & Holdings, which abandoned its 7pay service last year after some users were hacked.

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.