South Korean internet giant Naver and Japan’s SoftBank on Nov. 18 announced that they agreed to merge messenger app Line and portal Yahoo! Japan in a deal that is set to create the largest Japanese mobile platform.
By uniting, Naver and SoftBank will each hold 50 percent of the merged company. Currently, Naver owns more than 60 percent in Line while SoftBank has more than 40 percent in Z Holdings, which controls Yahoo! Japan.
They will sign a definitive contract in December and complete the deal by October, 2020, Line said in a statement. To complete the merger, Line is expected to go private by acquiring all outstanding shares, options and convertible bonds. The messenger app will offer 5,200 yen (US$47.74) which is 13.41 percent higher than the closing price of Line's common shares on Nov. 13.
Naver Founder and Global Investment Officer Lee Hae-jin (right) and Masayoshi Son, chairman of Japan`s SoftBank Group
The joint venture will control Z Holdings, which in turn will operate Line and Yahoo! Japan. Line, one of the most popular messaging apps in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, will become a consolidated subsidiary of SoftBank, a unit of investment conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp.
The creation of the mega platform could pose a big threat to Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce platform. Line has 82 million users in Japan and Yahoo! Japan is the second-largest search engine with 50 million users.
“We decided to integrate our business with ZHD to provide new use experience in the cashless era and enter into new businesses based on different technologies,” Line said in a statement on Nov. 18. “We are aiming for future grow by creating synergies and become a new artificial intelligence-based company that can compete with global platform operators.”
Following the announcement, Kospi-listed Naver’s shares rose 2.88 percent to close at 178,500 won ($152.54), while the benchmark index edged down 0.07 percent to 2,160.69 points.
In Japan, Z Holdings’ shares increased 1.20 percent to 422 yen ($3.88) and Line’s shares also rose 2.18 percent to 5,150 yen.
By Park Ga-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)