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Sony set to get green light on e-bank by 31 March

The man from the Japanese regulator, he say 'yes'

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Sony should find out whether it will be allowed to set up its own e-bank by 31 March. That's the date by which Japan's banking regulator must announce whether it has granted the company a licence that allows it to offer consumer credit and savings services. The consumer electronics giant's plans to break into the Internet banking sector have been known for some time, but specifics have been few and far between. However, with a regulatory statement so close, more details are emerging. According to a Sony spokesman, interviewed by Reuters, the company expects to offer Japanese customers a full range of retail banking facilities, including bill paying, loans, savings and mortgage provision. Sony hopes to build up a whopping $9.3 billion in deposits over the next five years. The bank will operate solely on the Net. Sony is believed to be talking to Japanese retailer Ito-Yokado, which operates the country's Seven-Eleven franchise, to allow its customers to use Ito-Yokado's ATM network. Ito-Yokado too wants to set up a bank, though one with fewer facilities than Sony's, and will also hear whether it has been granted a licence to do so by the end of the month. The Sony spokesman told Reuters that speculation that Sony and Ito-Yokado are talking was unfounded. However, with Sony already working with Japan's Seven-Eleven chain to install Net access terminals through which customers can order PlayStation games, DVDs and CDs, it seems unlikely that some discussion of other areas of co-operation haven't taken place. The idea behind the Net-based order system is that customers collect and pay for their goods at their local store, so clearly some sort of financial co-operation has to take place between Sony, Seven-Eleven and the schemes other retail partners. Extending that co-operation to banking facilities is an obvious move. Japan's banking regulator is unlikely to reject Sony's licence application, thanks to the countries moves to deregulate the banking industry. Similar freedoms in other nations, such as the US and the UK, could see Sony quickly moving to extend its coverage overseas. ®

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