PayPay Corp. is one of SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son’s success stories, going from zero to more than 60 million users in five years. The payments app now seeks to keep its pace of double-digit growth with help from other SoftBank portfolio companies, according to its co-chief operating officer.
(Bloomberg) — PayPay Corp. is one of SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son’s success stories, going from zero to more than 60 million users in five years. The payments app now seeks to keep its pace of double-digit growth with help from other SoftBank portfolio companies, according to its co-chief operating officer.
Tokyo-based PayPay propelled itself to prominence in the country’s fragmented cashless payments landscape, thanks to aggressive subsidies and SoftBank’s support in signing on merchants around Japan. It spent ¥10 billion ($67 million) in a cashback campaign in 10 days shortly after its 2018 debut, winning millions of users who crashed PayPay’s system multiple times.
Seen to be next in SoftBank’s initial public offering pipeline, the startup now holds two-thirds’ share in QR-code payments in a country where cash remains king. A partnership with Japan’s Line messaging service, under SoftBank’s telecom arm, would help PayPay win another 30 million users in the coming years, according to co-COO Masamichi Yasuda.
“We want everyone with a smartphone to be using PayPay,” Yasuda said in an interview. “There will always be a group that feels uncomfortable about cashless payments, but that’s the idea.”
PayPay is one of the few fruitful initiatives from Son’s strategy that encouraged portfolio companies to cooperate with one another. PayPay, in which SoftBank holds a majority stake through its telecom arm, holding companies and the second Vision Fund, initially adopted its payment technology from India’s Paytm in which the first Vision Fund invested in 2017.
The app’s gross merchandise volume, a key metric for gauging performance, topped ¥10 trillion for the year ended March, growing 34% from a year ago. That is the pace of growth PayPay wants to maintain, Yasuda said. It will leverage its offerings, ranging from credit cards and insurance to stock-trading, to boost transactions and users, he said.
PayPay’s growth has been bolstered by the Japanese government’s push to encourage digital payments in a country that still prefers cash. Cashless payment accounted for about 36% of total consumer transactions in 2022, according to data from the economy ministry. While that amount lags behind its neighbors, the figure’s more than double what it was a decade ago.
SoftBank’s telecom arm valued the startup at approximately ¥1 trillion during an internal transaction last year when PayPay acquired a stake in PayPay Card, according to calculations by Kirk Boodry, an analyst at Astris Advisory. If investors agree with that valuation, an IPO of the payments firm would be positive for SoftBank, analysts say.
“They’ve done an incredibly good job with PayPay, because they were nowhere in fintech before that business kicked off,” he said. “And they managed to take a majority of that market.”
Payments via QR code, a method widely used in China with WeChat Pay and Alipay, are gaining ground in Japan. Lower commission fees compared with those charged by credit card vendors continue to attract merchants.
PayPay is putting more focus on its financial health, however. The company now charges retailers a fee and reported its first-ever profit before accounting for interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization during the quarter ended in June.
The company wants to boost the average amount spent via PayPay on individual accounts, Yasuda said, declining to elaborate further. PayPay is also considering expanding into corporate accounts and may offer overseas usage via partnerships with local payment apps, he added.
A bid to extend PayPay’s reach would face stiff competition from Rakuten Group Inc., which offers an array of similar services including Rakuten Pay, credit card and brokerage services. The payments market is also increasingly crowded, while credit cards continue to dominate high-value transactions such as luxury purchases.
“We are gradually shifting into a different stage of growth,” Yasuda said. PayPay will continue to make investments, “but, at the same time, we want profit-generation to become a sticky trend for us.”
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