Business / Corporate

Line Corp. raises ¥100 billion on day one of dual listing in New York, Tokyo

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Line Corp. raised more than ¥100 billion from its consecutive debuts on the New York and Tokyo stock exchanges on Thursday and Friday, as CEO Takeshi Idezawa said the company planned to build trust in its messaging and other services and expand.

In the year’s biggest tech offering, Line shares soared in both markets, closing at $41.58 in New York, up about 27 percent from the IPO price of $32.84, and at ¥4,345 in Tokyo, up from ¥3,300.

“We have so many Line users . . . We’ve gone public because we think it’s important for a company that provides such communication infrastructure to improve the transparency of our management and win trust,” Idezawa said at a news conference in Tokyo.

“The internet industry is moving very fast and we have been in fierce global competition. Under this intense situation, we’d like to raise capital to invest in expansion and grow our business further.”

Tokyo-based Line, owned by South Korean IT giant Naver Corp., had tried to go public over the past two years but waited until this year.

Some experts say the delay cost Line the opportunity to go toe to toe with its rivals and build market share.

Line has about 218 million active monthly users but is dwarfed by the likes of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which has over 1 billion, and China-based WeChat, which has 700 million.

In defending the delay, Idezawa said that Line was unsure about how to expand the business and that its organizational structure was not ready.

“Now is the best timing for us,” he said.

Analysts said the dual listing is expected to give Line a boost but that it should also expect investors to make tough demands, including an increase in market share.

Hitoshi Sato, chief consultant at InfoCom Research Inc., a Tokyo-based communication technology think tank, said Line has been focusing on ways to make people’s daily lives more convenient in other ways than messaging, for example by providing bill-payment services.

The Line Pay service allows customers to pay electronically at stores and exchange money across its messaging platform.

“The trust is essential for a payment business, so listing in Japan and New York is critical for Line because it will give the firm a status and help solidify its strategy to” provide such financial services, said Sato.

As for the massive injection of capital the dual listing will bring, Sato said the money should be used to strengthen its services in countries where it already dominates the market, such as Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.

As well as its text and voice messaging apps, Line bolsters its bottom line through a variety of other services that include stickers for messaging, games, music streaming, food delivery and a cab-hailing service.

Idezawa said Line will be investing heavily to enrich those services in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia rather than cultivating new markets.

“We think the competition among the messaging app providers to get market share is already over,” Idezawa said.

Sato said that users of messaging apps choose service providers based on how widely they are used by their friends and acquaintances, meaning those with the most users have the competitive edge.

Given that Line’s rivals largely overshadow it, “it will be difficult to compete with them in terms of increasing users,” Sato acknowledged.

But investors will nevertheless be watching to see what strategy the popular company adopts to increase users, Sato said.

“It will leave a really bad impression on investors if the number of Line users goes down,” he warned.

Idezawa said investors are not looking merely at user share, and that it is more important to focus on a business model that provides a solid return for investors.

There are still many potential Line users in the four countries it is focusing on, he added.

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