Line Said to Submit IPO Application to Tokyo Exchange

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Line’s messaging app surpassed 480 million users this month, Chief Operating Officer Takeshi Idezawa said in Tokyo on July 11. Close

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Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Line’s messaging app surpassed 480 million users this month, Chief Operating Officer Takeshi Idezawa said in Tokyo on July 11.

Line Corp., operator of Japan’s most popular mobile messaging service, submitted an application for an initial public offering to the Tokyo Stock Exchange, people familiar with the matter said.

Line, controlled by South Korea’s Naver Corp. (035420), plans to appoint Nomura Holdings Inc. (8604) as a lead underwriter for the share sale, according to the people. The offering could value Tokyo-based Line at more than 1 trillion yen ($9.8 billion), the people said, asking not to be identified as the deliberations are private.

The company’s planned U.S. listing may come after its Tokyo trading debut, another person familiar with the matter said. Line is working with Nomura and Morgan Stanley (MS) to prepare for an IPO as soon as November, and is considering a listing on the Tokyo bourse and either the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, people familiar with the situation said last month.

Line is pursuing a share sale after Japanese e-commerce operator Rakuten Inc. (4755) acquired Viber Media Ltd. and Facebook Inc. (FB) agreed to buy rival messaging service WhatsApp Inc. for as much as $19 billion. Japanese initial public offerings have raised $6.7 billion this year, down from $7.9 billion the same period in 2013, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Naver shares rose 2.4 percent to 827,000 won at the close in Seoul, the biggest gain since June 26.

Video Calling

At least 10 Japanese companies that do business with Line jumped in Tokyo trading today. Adways Inc. (2489), the agent for Line’s “Free Coin” application, rose 13 percent, the most since December. Ateam Inc. (3662), which offers entertainment content for Line, advanced 16 percent in the biggest increase in more than a month while electronic book distributor Media Do Co. jumped 11 percent.

Fumiko Hayashi, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman for Line, declined to comment. Kenji Yamashita, a spokesman for Nomura, and Mika Watanabe, a spokesman for Morgan Stanley, also declined to comment.

Line’s messaging app surpassed 480 million users this month, Chief Operating Officer Takeshi Idezawa said in Tokyo on July 11. About 85 percent of subscribers are located outside Japan, the company said in February.

Revenue for Line’s core business more than tripled in the first quarter to 14.6 billion yen, it said in a May 8 statement. The company has added features such as games, comics, free voice and video calling, photo and video sharing, and tie-in apps including a camera.

China Censorship

China blocked messaging applications operated by Line and Kakao Corp. as part of a stepped-up Internet censorship campaign, according to an analysis this month by Greatfire.org, a group opposed to Internet restrictions. Line users in China haven’t been able to access all services since July 1, Line spokeswoman Fumiko Hayashi said earlier.

Gumi Inc., the Tokyo-based developer of mobile games including “Brave Frontier,” plans an IPO as soon as December that may value the company at about 100 billion yen, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month. Recruit Holdings Co., a Japanese provider of staffing services, is preparing an IPO that may take place as soon as in October, people familiar with knowledge of the matter said in May.

Line, which has 666 employees, started providing its messaging application after the March 2011 earthquake in northeastern Japan knocked out telephone services, according to its website.

To contact the reporters on this story: Takahiko Hyuga in Tokyo at thyuga@bloomberg.net; Shigeru Sato in Tokyo at ssato10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Philip Lagerkranser at lagerkranser@bloomberg.net; Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net Ben Scent, Robert Fenner

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