Messaging app provider Line Corp. said Wednesday it will launch a short-term bike rental service in Japan next year, teaming up with Chinese startup Mobike to meet the anticipated demand in a sector that is becoming popular around the world.
Line’s entry into the market comes at a time when such services — in which users can find, unlock and pay for bicycles using a designated smartphone app — are increasingly common in Europe, the United States and China.
Under the deal, Line will form a capital and business tie-up with the Japanese arm of Mobike and begin the service in the first half of next year.
The operating areas for the service will be decided after discussions with interested local governments. Line will also aim to offer the service at competition venues of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in a bid to cater to foreign visitors.
Line said it will provide information on the locations of vacant bicycles and enable users to unlock them through the app. Payment will also be available through the app.
Mobike, meanwhile, will operate the services, providing and protecting the bicycles.
“This is a new enterprise that will change the transportation (mode) of Line users in Japan,” Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa said at a Tokyo news conference.
Line is aiming for a stake no higher than 20 percent in the Japanese arm of Mobike by next month and will dispatch a representative to serve on the firm’s board.
Unlike traditional bicycle rental offerings, services like Mobike allow users to rent and drop off bicycles at designated parking spaces. Major Japanese mobile phone carrier NTT Docomo Inc. is among the players in the domestic market.
Mobike, which started in China in April 2016 and has since expanded to overseas markets including Britain and Singapore, launched the service in Sapporo in August. It teamed up with local companies including Seicomart convenience store operator Secoma Co. in providing parking spots for Mobike bicycles.
Mobike plans to expand its services to 10 Japanese cities, including Fukuoka, within this year.
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