Rakuten has an extensive e-commerce, communication and video streaming network in Russia and the Japanese multinational plans to allow users to access these using its crypto coin and via its Viber messaging platform. Photo: iStock/GoodLifeStudio

The parent company of cross-platform messaging app Viber is studying Russian regulations and law as it prepares to launch its own crypto-currency in the country next year, reports Russian news agency TASS.

Japanese multinational Rakuten, which owns the Viber communications platform, will roll-out its Rakuten Coin in Russia. Viber CEO Djamel Agaoua told Russian reporters that “the Rakuten Coin crypto-currency, which is supported by the entire Rakuten ecosystem,” will be tradable across the Viber network via a Viber wallet and will also be interchangeable for rubles, dollars and euros.

The company already has an extensive e-commerce, communication and video streaming network in Russia and the crypto coin will allow users to access and pay for these services via the Viber messaging platform.

According to data from Statista, Viber has more than one billion registered users worldwide and Russia has about 45 million of these. The messaging “chat app” was acquired by Rakuten in February 2014 for $900 million, making it the second-most expensive acquisition of the e-commerce platform to date. Statista also reports that Viber is the world’s sixth most popular messaging app behind WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, QQ Mobile and Skype.

Viber is not the only messaging service looking towards crypto-currencies. South Korean conglomerate Naver is also attempting to forge a leading path into the space via its Japanese subsidiary, the popular pan-Asian messaging giant Line, which also has plans for a digital currency and crypto exchange. It is likely that this year will see a number of other leading chat and messaging platforms enter the crypto fray with their own virtual currency tokens.

Russia’s crypto regulations are now somewhat murky with the first draft arriving in May. Officially crypto-currencies are not recognized as money in Russia as they are considered to be property. This has not prevented new crypto-facing business ventures forming.

Russia-based payment services provider Qiwi recently announced the launch of a crypto-currency investment bank. The bank will be founded by Qiwi Blockchain Technologies, a subsidiary of Qiwi, which is the leading provider of payment services in Russia. The company has more than 17 million virtual wallets and its services are used by over 70 million consumers.

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