(Reuters) - 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.
The Irish central bank declined to comment.
Facebook was not immediately available for 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.
Telecom groups, retailers and banks are all trying to secure a pie of global mobile payments, which is predicted to grow rapidly in the next few years.
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.
Facebook's rival Google Inc's head of payments recently reiterated commitment to the struggling Google Wallet and mobile payments service. The company had allowed users to send money 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.
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.
(Reporting by Soham Chatterjee and Abhirup Roy in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)