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Japan's Digital Wallet taps growing remittance demand from Filipinos

MANILA (NNA/Kyodo) -- Japanese fintech venture Digital Wallet Corp. has taken over the Philippines and Australia operations of Speed Money Transfer Philippines Inc., banking on steadily growing remittance demand among Filipino workers living overseas.

    Digital Wallet has acquired a 100 percent stake in the Philippine-licensed remittance and foreign exchange service firm, providing workers abroad with a digital service, Eiji Miyakawa, founding CEO, told NNA on Wednesday. He declined to comment on the transaction value.

    Renaming the acquired firm Digital Wallet Philippines, the Tokyo-based startup established in 2014 plans to offer domestic and international money transfers, as well as payments, through its mobile wallet application Smiles Mobile Remittance, as the fintech firm seeks to expand the business in and outside Japan.

    "Our Philippines acquisition is the first step in our global expansion strategy to deploy our Mobile Wallet service 'Smiles' in Asia and Europe," Miyakawa said in a statement.

    Smiles has gained popularity among migrant Filipino workers in Japan since its launch in June 2017, topping 80,000 users, the CEO said in a phone interview with NNA, adding, "We see further room for our digital remittance service to grow in Japan."

    The number of Philippine nationals in Japan stood at more than 270,000 at the end of last year, up 4.1 percent from a year earlier and accounting for 9.9 percent of foreign residents, according to the Ministry of Justice.

    At $34 billion the Philippines was the fourth-biggest remittance recipient globally after China, India and Mexico in 2018, World Bank data shows.

    Remittance is one of the growth drivers of the Philippine economy, with around 2.3 million Filipinos working abroad as of last year, according to the Philippines government's statistics.

    Digital Wallet plans to launch the service in Australia, the Middle East and the United States, among other regions where Filipino workers reside, Miyakawa said.

    The Japan-based fintech firm said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the central bank, has approved the acquisition.

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