The largest internet conglomerate in Japan, the GMO Internet Group, recently announced that they will be diving into the cryptocurrency industry, adding another own wallet and exchange to the already-competitive Japanese Bitcoin landscape. A new company founded specifically for this venture, GMO Wallet Co., Ltd., was founded in October.
As the largest and most successful company in the country, for both Internet services and online securities trading, GMO could quickly become serious competition to the rest of Japan’s Bitcoin industry.
“GMO Wallet will provide a safe and secure digital currency trading environment by making full use of the know-how that the GMO Internet Group has cultivated in the Internet securities business and security business, and will also promote collaboration with group companies.”
- GMO Internet Group
While estimating that the market size in Japan for cryptocurrencies will grow to 1 trillion yen, or US$8.7 billion, “in a few years,” the main reason for the new venture cited is a recent improvement in the Japanese regulatory environment, following several bitcoin rulings from the Japanese government.
A December ruling from the newly-formed Cabinet Office Ordinance on Virtual Currency, part of the Japanese Financial Services Agency, debated the “revised fund settlement law" announced in May. The agency is in favor of making Japan the first country to legally treat bitcoin and other digital currencies as a currency instead of a commodity.
Another law advancing digital currencies in Japan mentioned has yet to pass, but according to the GMO Internet Group, hints at the possibility of a change in digital currency taxation. “The Ministry of Finance and the Financial Services Agency are considering the elimination of the consumption tax on the transaction of virtual currency by the spring of 2017,” states the recent GMO Group announcement.
“If this is true, the virtual currency is equivalent to actual currency rather than goods and services.”
- GMO Internet Group
The GMO Group is the umbrella company for a range of internet businesses, which make it the primary internet infrastructure company in Japan. As the first and largest domain registrar in the country, and the source of all .tokyo domains, the company started in the early 1990’s.
The group has a focus on IT infrastructure business such as domain, cloud, hosting, and security. “We have many services with the largest share in Japan,” the company claims.
The company has over 5,100 employees located in 60 offices throughout 18 countries. The most recent company estimates claim 135 billion yen, or US$1.17 billion in sales during 2016. To learn more about the company in an entertaining way, be sure to read GMO Internet Group’s short Manga comic featuring their full-service line.
Much like Google, the company has been buying complimentary internet-based services that work together synergistically. Unlike Google, however, GMO has also found success in video gaming, online Forex trading, and securities marketplaces, offering some of the most popular trading websites in the world.
GMO Click Securities, known since 2005 as Z.com, is the largest Japanese Foreign Exchange (Forex) trading market, and the world’s seventh largest Forex market according to Fairreporters, an independent polling agency. Registered in Hong Kong, Z.com focuses primarily on the Japanese market and had a daily volume around $7.1 Billion USD in 2015.
Despite being new to the Wallet and Exchange sectors, the group has been operating as a Bitcoin merchant payment services provider since November 2014. GMO Payment Gateway is already the biggest provider of credit card merchant processing in Japan with over 48,000 retail clients.
The Group’s capital investment arm, GMO Ventures, is also an investor in Bitflyer, a leading bitcoin exchange. Bitflyer has been sending merchants to GMO Payment Gateway when they need bitcoin payment processing. The announcement did not mention whether that relationship will continue once a GMO Internet Group company becomes the competition.
Japan is currently the world’s second-largest bitcoin trade market, with roughly twice the daily trade volume of the US dollar market, and has a range of bitcoin services on offer. Bitflyer currently leads the exchange market, with nearly 68 percent of the daily Bitcoin trading volume.
The fourth-largest competing exchange by volume, Zaif, launched the Zaif Coin Reserve in May last year. The new bitcoin investment service allows users to buy their bitcoins automatically, with Dollar Cost Averaging. Meanwhile, the company partnered on a TV show called “BitGirls” in September, a variety style show that lets young women compete with random talents for a chance at stardom while viewers trade contestant specific cryptocurrencies.
Coincheck, the third largest exchange at press time, is working with several utility companies across Japan to offer it’s customers a way to pay their electricity bill with bitcoin. The company also offers merchant services to Japanese businesses who want to take Bitcoin, and has signed up some large companies already such as DMM, a mixed-format entertainment store that is the 26th most popular website in Japan.
The second largest Yen exchange is Singapore’s Quoine. Several other countries like China, Luxembourg, and the US all have popular exchanges in the Yen market as well.