Last year there was a report that MUFG, Japan’s largest bank, would launch its “MUFG coin” digital currency by the end of 2019. Today there is another similar report, but this time there are more concrete details. Mainichi newspaper reports that the launch will be in conjunction with a payments app for restaurant booking site Hot Pepper Gourmet, a subsidiary of Japan’s Recruit Group, which owns Indeed and Glassdoor.
The Hot Pepper web site states there are more than 42,000 affiliated outlets or restaurants, and it is planned that the affiliates will use MUFG’s coin. The information is based on an interview with Hironori Kamezawa, President of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
The collaboration makes quite a bit of sense because Recruit has significant interests in blockchain and digital currency. Its venture arm RSP Investments set up a blockchain fund that has invested in nine startups. But there are additional investments in Blockstack and Provenance, the mortgage blockchain.
Last year it was reported that MUFG planned to offer branded corporate currencies. It’s unclear whether that is the case here.
Four out of five Japanese shoppers still use cash for payments, so there is significant competition to earn the sort of market shares that Alipay and WeChat Pay have in China. But there are numerous competitors, including Alipay.
Last year we reported that Mizuho Bank launched J-Coin with 60 banks, and more have been added since. It also enables users to add money to their Suica card, which is accepted on trains and buses and by nearly 600,000 merchants. We believe this is not a blockchain solution.
Other competitors include PayPay from Softbank and Yahoo Japan, chat app Line Pay, and Rakuten Pay. And SBI launched MoneyTap, where the emphasis is on interbank and P2P payments.
In related news, yesterday, we reported how South Korean regions use local digital currencies for COVID-19 relief, basic income support, and encourage shopping at smaller outlets.