By Teppei Kasai
(Reuters) - Rakuten Inc, Japan's largest e-commerce company, has been actively considering launching a service like website Airbnb that would provide a hub to rent apartments and homes in Japan to short-term guests, two people with knowledge of the developing plans told Reuters.
Rakuten has commissioned a detailed study in Japan of whether it could launch a short-term rental service that would be easier to use than existing services, like Airbnb, according to the people, who asked not to be identified. As part of that project, Rakuten representatives have discussed the possibility of launching such a service in early 2015, they said.
Rakuten had no immediate comment.
Launching an online home rental marketplace would represent a bet by Rakuten's billionaire founder and Chief Executive Hiroshi Mikitani, 49, that related regulations on the verge of being eased under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
It would also take Rakuten into a fast-growing market that has made San Francisco-based Airbnb into a start-up valued at over $10 billion, over 60 percent of the market capitalization of Rakuten.
(Reporting By Teppei Kasai, editing by Kevin Krolicki)