Rakuten Inc. is considering teaming up with Marubeni Corp. to sell electricity at discounted rates to small and medium-size companies that have stores on Rakuten's online shopping mall, it was learned Friday.

As well as supporting its clients in the mall, the online shopping giant is apparently trying to secure customers for its power supply business amid intensifying competition before the complete liberalization of retail electricity sales begins in April.

The two companies are expected to announce the tie-up next week, according to industry sources.

Rakuten is also planning to sell electricity to households and offer its shopping points according to the amount of electricity charges, the sources said.

The move is seen as an initiative by Rakuten to make use of deregulation in other sectors to boost its main business.

Some 42,000 stores are currently operating as part of Rakuten's online mall, and around 30,000 hotels and inns are registered at its online travel site.

Offering them low-cost electricity will be part of Rakuten's efforts to strengthen the clients' business, which will in turn help the firm compete with its online shopping business rivals, including Amazon and Yahoo.

Marubeni owns facilities to generate a total of 410,000 kW. It hopes to expand its electricity sales channel through the tie-up with Rakuten, according to media reports.