Sony, NTT plan e-money system in Japan –

TOKYO -- Sony Corp., NTT DoCoMo Inc. and nine other companies yesterday announced plans for a full-scale launch within the year of an electronic-money system in Japan.

The companies intend to develop the project into a major payment system within five years, the companies said in a statement.

Through a joint venture company, the partners will soon begin working on spreading use of the system, named Edy, to retailers and consumers with the goal of getting 30 million cards and 15 million personal terminals into the hands of Japan's 127 million people by late 2006. At that time, the companies hope the card will be accepted at 25,000 retail outlets, 30,000 online shops and 1 million vending machines, they said in the statement.

The 11 partners in the joint venture, which has yet to be named and is scheduled to be established next month, include major banks, technology companies capable of making the cards and terminals, telecommunications companies to tout online and mobile phone use and an automaker that will promote use of the card for auto-related applications.

Joining Sony and NTT DoCoMo in the venture are three major consumer and business banks, Sakura Bank Ltd., Sanwa Bank Ltd. and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd.; telecommunications carrier DDI Corp.; automaker Toyota Motor Corp.; electronics maker Denso Corp.; and Sony Finance International Inc., Sakura Information Systems Co. Ltd. and Japan Research Institute Ltd.

The Sony Group will be the largest shareholder in the new company with a 47% stake, of which 42% will be held by Sony Finance and 5% by Sony Corp.

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