Mobike has announced that it is launching a strategic partnership with LINE Corporation, which operates the LINE messaging platform. The partnership includes LINE leading the A round of investment in Mobike Japan, the local subsidiary of the hire bike firm. LINE will have the largest minority stake at under 20%. Other investors in the A round have not been disclosed.

The partnership is being described as an effort to promote the adoption of dockless bike rentals in Japan, which have become commonplace in China, Mobike’s home market. The effort includes work to integrate Mobike functions into LINE, as has been achieved in WeChat in China. Integration means users don’t need a separate app for hiring bikes. Mobike Japan will have exclusive access to the LINE app which has 71 million users in Japan.

In Mobike’s release, Hu Weiwei, Founder and President of Mobike, is quoted as saying:

“LINE is the clear leader in Japan’s social media space, with a strong culture of innovation and creativity, and therefore, is the perfect partner to support our ambitious growth plans in Japan… We will be able to provide tens of millions of LINE users with a seamless and localized experience for finding, unlocking and paying for bikes with the LINE app. Our ambition in Japan is to work with industry leading Japanese partners like LINE, as well as local governments and communities, to bring Mobike to more cities in Japan and to set the global standard for bikesharing.”

LINE has many features in common with WeChat such as LINE Pay. This means that when the service is live in Japan, users will be able to scan QR codes on the bikes using the scanner in LINE, then pay within the app. Mobike has struggled in some overseas markets, but Japanese people’s familiarity with QR code scanning and using the same app for payments could help with the rollout of the bike service there.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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