Line Targets 1 Billion Users in 2015 as Services Surge

Line Corp., operator of the most-popular mobile messaging application in Japan, plans to double its users to more than 1 billion globally by next year.

The company has a target of 500 million to 600 million users by the end of this year, Chief Executive Officer Akira Morikawa told a conference in Tokyo today. Line, which is controlled by South Korea’s Naver Corp., had 400 million subscribers as of April 1.

“I always welcome new challenges,” Morikawa said while discussing his growth plan.

Line has added as many as 1.7 million new users in a day, with growing numbers from North America and Europe, amid surging demand for instant messaging applications on smartphones to replace traditional texts. The Tokyo-based company, which created Line after the 2011 earthquake crippled Japan’s phone networks, competes for subscribers with WhatsApp Inc. and Viber Media Inc.

In February, Facebook Inc. agreed to buy WhatsApp for as much as $19 billion, while Rakuten Inc. agreed to pay $900 million for Viber.

Line is considering whether to hold an initial public offering. Line may be valued at as much as $14.9 billion, according to estimates by BNP Paribas SA. That is about $40 per user, while Facebook’s offer for WhatsApp values each user at $42.

About 85 percent of Line’s users are outside Japan, it said in February.

(Company corrects pace of new users in fourth paragraph of story published April 10.)
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