Facebook Inc is preparing to join the mobile-payments race with remittances and electronic-money services on the social network, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing several people involved in the process.
The company is close to obtaining approval from the Central Bank
of Ireland to start a service that would allow users to store money on Facebook and use it to pay and exchange with others, the people told the FT.
Facebook and the Irish central bank declined to comment.
The company has also had partnership talks with at least three London start-ups - TransferWise, Moni Technologies and Azimo - that offer online and mobile international money transfer services, three people involved in the discussions told FT.
Facebook's specific plans, including which countries the electronic-money services would be available in, were not immediately clear.
The market for mobile and electronic payments is heating up, as technology companies, telecom groups, retailers and banks all try to get a foothold in a business that is expected to grow rapdily in the next few years.
PayPal, a division of eBay Inc, saw its mobile payment volume double to $27 billion in 2013.
Google Inc's head of payments recently reiterated commitment to the struggling Google Wallet and mobile payments service. The service allows users to store their credit card information online and quickly pay for goods online and at retail stores. Google Wallet allowed users to send money to others last year as an email attachment.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in January the company's interest in mobile payments was a reason for creating the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in its iPhone 5S smartphone.
Vodafone brought its mobile money transfer service M-Pesa to Romania last month, following its success in Africa, and is likely to expand the service in eastern and central Europe.
Global mobile transactions are expected to grow at an average 35 percent per year between 2012 and 2017, according to a report by research firm Gartner. The June 2013 report forecast a $721 billion market with more than 450 million users by 2017.
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