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Naver’s Line in merger talks with Yahoo Japan

Nov 15,2019
Naver-controlled Line may merge with Yahoo Japan to create a one-stop messaging-to-merchandising platform, according to reports in the Nikkei.

The combined entity would be the largest of its kind in Japan.

Line, already the largest messaging service in Japan, is 73 percent owned by Naver. Z Holdings, the parent of Yahoo Japan, is 45 percent owned by SoftBank Group.

According to a Nikkei Asian Review report Wednesday, Naver and SoftBank are currently in discussions with the aim of reaching an agreement by the month’s end.

Naver confirmed the discussions in a statement but added that “no decision has been made regarding the report.”

“Line continuously evaluates various opportunities to increase the corporate value including mergers,” the statement said.

In an announcement posted on the the Financial Supervisory Service’s data analysis retrieval and transfer system Thursday, Naver promised to disclose relevant details “when the decision was made, or within a month.” The anticipated date for an update is Dec. 13, according to the statement.

One possible structure is a new venture equally owned by SoftBank and Naver, said Nikkei. That company would own Z Holdings, which would itself own Line and Yahoo Japan.

The merger would create a platform with more than 100 million users that could offer a wide range of services for an integrated user experience.

The new entity would easily be the largest IT company in Japan by revenue. It would be particularly strong in finance. Line Pay has 37 million users in Japan while PayPay in Japan, which is operated by SoftBank and Yahoo Japan, has 19 million users.

Yahoo Japan, which is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, rose 21 percent after the news broke, while Naver rose about 14 percent.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]