• Kyodo, Reuters


Mobile phone carrier KDDI Corp. and convenience store operator Lawson Inc. will tie up on smartphone payments and combine their customer loyalty point programs to strengthen competitiveness against rivals, the two companies announced Monday.

KDDI, which operates the au Wallet point service for its customers, will buy 2.1 percent of Lawson shares and take a 20 percent stake in the company running Lawson’s Ponta point program, the companies said.

The two firms’ point programs will be integrated into Lawson’s Ponta program in May, they said.

The partnership will combine KDDI’s 5G technologies and Lawson’s network of stores, along with both companies’ fledgling payment and loyalty systems, they said. KDDI’s investment would be worth more than ¥13 billion based on Lawson’s last closing price.

In the field of smartphone payments, members of the Ponta service will be able to use KDDI’s au Pay payment service through the Ponta smartphone app.

“We will offer next-generation integration of retail outlets and online service” through the tie-up, Lawson President Sadanobu Takemasu told a joint news conference Monday evening in Tokyo .

“We want to create a new value experience,” KDDI President Makoto Takahashi said at the news conference, adding that the deal will see their customer base total over 100 million.

The alliance comes as competition in smartphone payment services is heating up as major mobile phone carriers, retailers and financial institutions enter the market.

The SoftBank Corp. subsidiary operating Yahoo Japan online services and messaging app provider Line Corp., which together have 252 million users, said recently they will merge operations by next October to offer integrated services, including mobile payments.

The government has also been pushing for a cashless society in a bid to spur consumer spending.

It has funded a program to give rebates for cashless payments at small shops from October through June next year as a way to shield the economy from the recent consumption tax hike.

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