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Facebook 'weeks away' from e-wallet approval

An e-wallet service from the social network, that lets you store money on your account to spend across the Web, is waiting on regulatory approval in Ireland, reports Financial Times.

Matt Harnack/Facebook

Facebook is reportedly close to launching its own e-wallet service.

Facebook is currently working with regulators in Ireland to gain approval for a service that would let its users store money on their social accounts and use it for transactions on the Web and via smartphones, Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the social network's plans. Ireland is "only weeks away" appointing Facebook to handle electronic money, or "e-money," that can be used throughout Europe, according to Financial Times.

The nascent battle for e-wallet supremacy is expected to be a long and bitter one. Several prominent companies -- including Google, wireless carriers, PayPal, and others -- are trying to become the dominant digital force for consumers who want repositories to store and exchange money.

The focus of Facebook's service, according to Ovum analyst Eden Zoller, will be allowing its social customers to make mobile payments. Emerging markets might also prove critical to the social network's plan, as those areas are in need of such solutions. Facebook is trying hard to expand its reach in those markets. Still, Zoller is unsure whether Facebook's e-wallet service will attract many users.

"Ovum's 2013 Consumer Insights found that only 1 percent of respondents trusted social networks like Facebook to deliver [mobile payments], in sharp contrast to the much higher levels of trust placed in banks (43 percent) credit card companies (13 percent) and mobile operators in the context of emerging markets (11 percent in China)," Zoller told CNET in an emailed statement.

Questions also remain over Facebook's ability to convert success in social to mobile. Zoller pointed to Facebook's failed Credits virtual currency and Facebook Gifts as just two examples of the social network's trouble converting to a digital-currency provider.

"The Facebook Credits virtual currency got nowhere and was wound down last year, while the main [mobile] commerce offering in place today, Facebook Gifts, has so far received a muted response from consumers," Zoller said.

Still, Facebook apparently presses on. It's unclear whether the social network would launch its e-wallet service soon after the Ireland go-ahead or if it would wait some time.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

Facebook shares are up 99 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $59.52 on Monday.