November 15, 2019 13:31
Naver founder Lee Hae-jin and Softbank chief Masayoshi Son are hoping to join hands in a merger of Lee's messaging giant Line and Son's Yahoo Japan. A final agreement is expected within this month.
Line is Japan's No. 1 mobile messaging service with more than 80 million users, while Yahoo, though flagging elsewhere, is the country's top Internet portal used by more than 50 million people.
The combined behemoth will have more than 100 million users and become the dominant force on the Japanese Internet.
After the Nikkei daily broke the news on Wednesday, Line and Z Holdings, the parent company of Yahoo Japan, issued statements the following day confirming they are in merger talks.
The merger would create another massive force in the global Internet market currently dominated by the U.S. with Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter and China with Alibaba and Tencent.
The new alliance could also create a powerful rival to Alibaba and Tencent's effort to seize the mobile transaction market in Southeast Asia armed with Alipay and WeChat Pay.
Line is the top mobile messaging service in Southeast Asia, including Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, with between 10 and 45 million users in each country. Softank is the biggest shareholder of Grab, Southeast Asia's biggest ride-hailing service.
Didi Chuxing, China's biggest ride-hailing service owned jointly by Alibaba and Tencent, is already losing ground to Grab.
The alliance would also be a formidable challenger for U.S. IT giants such as Google and Facebook. In the heated artificial intelligence business, Softbank has invested more than W100 trillion and the merger could expand it further (US$W1,171).
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