Blackstone makes Japan fintech debut via Sony Bank majority stake

Blackstone makes Japan fintech debut via Sony Bank majority stake

Sony Bank is taking a backseat position in management of Sony Payments Services (SPSV), with Blackstone taking a majority stake.

An American alternative investment firm headquartered in New York City, Blackstone has acquired the majority stake from Sony Bank, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the wider Sony Group.

SPSV is one of Japan’s largest payments service providers, having scaled up a strong presence across the country since its foundation in 1995 as part of the aforementioned Sony Group.

“SPSV has solidified a healthy market position and earned the trust of customers as a high-quality payment service provider,” said SPSV President, CEO and Representative Director, Hidehiko Nakamura.

“We believe this partnership with Blackstone will boost SPSV’s capabilities through investments in IT and talent to help accelerate its growth journey, particularly at an exciting time of growth for the electronic payment industry in Japan.”

Although it became independent as a standalone business in 2006, Sony Group’s Sony Bank still maintained a strong degree of control over SPSV’s direction via its majority stake.

Following its sale to Blackstone, SPSV is moving further away from its founding parent group. However, Sony and Blackstone are also long-standing partners, and further cooperation is highly likely.

Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman and CEO, Sony Group, remarked: “For the past 30 years, SPSV has led Japan’s cashless evolution, making payments safe and secure for customers. 

“We believe Blackstone, a long-standing partner of Sony Group, can help continue the legacy that SPSV has formed and support its next phase of growth.”

Meanwhile, Sony Bank’s President and CEO, Keiji Minami, reflected that changing trends in global payments and banking – such as the shift towards cashless payments and general diversification in payment types – require greater adaptability. 

“We believe that Blackstone is the best partner, bringing a global perspective and its expertise and network in the payment business,” he said.

For Blackstone, the agreement marks a continuation of the fund’s investments in fintech and payments but also its debut in the Japanese fintech space, which the group believes poses strong potential.

The firm notes that the Japanese electronic card payment market is the third largest in the world, with market penetration of 9.1%, whilst the country is also home to a JPY 22.7trn (USD$18.9bn).

As with other major developed financial markets, Japan has probed various forms of fintech innovation in recent years, including CBDCs and the Metaverse. The country has also witnessed the aforementioned trends of economic digitalisation and widespread adoption of cashless payments.

Atsuhiko Sakamoto, Head of Private Equity, Blackstone Japan, said: “We are thrilled to invest in SPSV, one of Japan’s leading payment services providers and a well-established financial technology company, and expand our Japan Private Equity portfolio in “good neighbourhoods” – sectors with strong secular growth. 

“Digitisation of the economy is a key trend around the world including Japan, and SPSV is exceptionally positioned to benefit with its sophisticated technology and robust customer base. We’re committed to bringing our operational and technology expertise and scale to support SPSV’s growth.”