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Japan Post Co. and major online shopping mall operator Rakuten Inc. have reached a basic agreement on a tie-up aimed at streamlining logistics with the use of digital technologies.

The two companies will try to tackle delivery staff shortages and other logistics-related challenges by sharing Japan Post’s massive trove of data on postal items and Rakuten’s forecast information regarding online shopping demand, they said on Thursday.

The mail delivery arm of Japan Post Holdings Co. and Rakuten will also consider cooperation in other fields such as cashless payment and mobile phone services.

They aim to sign a final agreement in around March next year.

“We see tie-up possibilities in a variety of fields, even outside the financial and mobile sectors,” Japan Post Holdings President Hiroya Masuda told a news conference, showing the group’s strong interest in enhancing business ties with Rakuten.

In the field of logistics, the companies plan to utilize big data and artificial intelligence technologies to advance the development of highly-efficient delivery systems as well as an app that would make it easier for customers to receive parcels.

Kazuhide Kinugawa, president of the mail delivery company, stressed that the tie-up would allow Japan Post to further enhance its strength by combining its network of 24,000 post offices across the country with Rakuten’s digital technologies.

“We want to make digital transformation happen in the logistics sector,” said Rakuten Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hiroshi Mikitani.

Japan Post and Rakuten will continue talks on the tie-up with a view to establishing a new company.

Demand for small-lot parcel delivery services has increased substantially in Japan, with more and more people shopping online amid the coronavirus crisis. The demand surge has forced some delivery companies to face difficulty in maintaining their services.

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