SoftBank’s Yahoo Japan to merge with Line app operator

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TOKYO, Nov 18, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Japan’s Z Holdings, formerly Yahoo Japan,
will merge with mobile chat app operator Line, the firms said Monday, in a
bid to boost the customer base for their digital services.

Mobile operator SoftBank Corp, the parent of Z Holdings (ZHD), and South
Korea’s Naver, Line’s parent company, agreed the merger of ZHD and Line,
SoftBank and Naver said in a joint statement.

Line will be delisted after SoftBank and Naver make a tender offer, with
the merger expected to happen in October 2020.

The decision “aims to bring together the business resources of the ZHD
Group and the LINE Group, which have overwhelming user bases and abundant
assets in Japan, to provide a convenient experience to users in Japan,” the
statement said.

SoftBank also plans to invest in expanding into new business areas and
“aims to be a leading company that is a driving force across Japan, Asia and
worldwide”.

The merger “will be conducted on an equal basis by ZHD and LINE with the
aim of forming a business group that can overcome fierce domestic and global
competition” and the newly integrated company will implement “business
investment targeting growth in the areas of AI, commerce, Fintech,
advertising” among others, it said.

The final price for the tender offer is still under discussion.

SoftBank Corp. a mobile unit of telecom and investment giant SoftBank
Group, holds a 44-percent stake in Z Holdings, while Line is controlled by
Naver.

Line was launched in 2011 after Japan’s quake-tsunami disaster damaged
telecoms infrastructure.

It combines features from Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp with games and a
mobile payment service.

SoftBank and Line have increasingly competed in fields such as digital
payments, while both firms have also been investing in artificial
intelligence to improve their services.

Shares in SoftBank Corp were trading down 0.46 percent at 1,501 yen and
its parent SoftBank Group was up 0.82 percent at 4,295 yen in early trade.

Shares in ZHD were up 1.43 percent at 423 yen and Line trading up 2.57
percent at 5,179 yen.

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