Japanese free messaging app giant Line Corp. said it will start a bicycle-sharing service with Beijing Mobike Technology Co., the world’s largest bike rental company.

Line said Dec. 20 it would provide up to 20 percent of the capital of the Japanese subsidiary of Mobike and dispatch one of its executives to the subsidiary in early January.

The move is intended to enable people using the Line app to search Mobike’s bicycle parking lots, lock and unlock bicycles, and make payments through the online settlement service Line Pay during the first half of 2018.

Mobike provides services in more than 200 cities around the world, mainly in China. It expanded into Japan this past August.

It offered hundreds of bicycles and more than a dozen parking lots in Sapporo until the end of November when the service was suspended due to snow.

The general service fee is 100 yen (90 cents) for 30 minutes.

Many other companies are aiming to enter the bicycle-sharing industry, which has taken off in China. It is expected to become popular in Japan too.

Mercari, Inc., a leading flea market app provider, and DMM.com Co., a top video service operator, announced this year that they would enter the industry.

Docomo Bike Share, Inc. of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Group owned 6,275 bicycles as of the end of November and provides rental services mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Some retailing companies are showing an interest in bicycle-sharing as they expect bicycle parking lots will shore up their customer base.

Seven-Eleven Japan Co., the nation's biggest convenience store chain, expects to have about 5,000 rental bicycles at around 1,000 outlets in Tokyo and other regions by no later than March 2019.

In China, many bike-sharing companies are struggling to make a profit due to excessive competition. Even Mobike might be merged with another company, according to sources.

When Mobike decided to work with Line, which boasts 71 million users, it was clearly seeking marketing opportunities outside China to improve its profits.

(This article was written by Satoshi Kubo and Azusa Ushio.)