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Japan's Line to launch online grocery shopping in Thailand, plans to expand

[BANGKOK] Japan-based messaging app company Line Corp IPO-LINE.T is launching an online grocery delivery service, its first ever, in Thailand and plans to expand it to other Southeast Asian nations to tap booming growth in the region's mobile phone transactions.

The unit of top South Korean Internet portal operator Naver Corp said on Monday its "Cheap Sure Sure" online grocery service will begin on Feb 4 in Thailand, Line's second-biggest market after Japan, with more than 33 million active users of the app.

A successful launch of the service in the region can help alleviate pressure on Naver, which last week announced a disappointing quarterly profit. "Thailand is one of our top priority markets. We are continuously exploring ways to boost m-commerce in the region,"Sedong Nam, head of the service department of Line unit Line Plus Corp, said in a statement.

Line did not give any financial details of the project nor a time frame about the planned launch of the grocery service in other Southeast Asian countries.

Consumers across Southeast Asia, a region of 600 million, are increasingly going online to research and purchase products and services, particularly with the rapid uptake of mobile devices and smartphones. But growth is hampered by poor mobile payment options and unfriendly user interfaces, Line said.

Line's service in Thailand will face competition from similar online services being offered by leading retailers in the country, including by Tesco Lotus, a Thai operation of Tesco Plc, Charoen Pokphand Foods' CP Fresh Mart and Central Group's Tops Supermarket.

And while digital consumers across Southeast Asia enjoy going online to shop, those in the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore are most inclined to purchase items online, while in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, consumers are more likely to go online to browse, according to market researcher Nielsen.

Line's service will be offering products such as water, coffee and instant noodles at up to 50 percent discounts and free delivery for Thai shoppers, the statement said.

It has tied up with aCommerce, a Thai e-commerce service provider in the region, which will handle product sourcing, warehousing, fulfilment and deliveries.