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Japanese chat app Line soars in New York-Tokyo dual listings

Line's service lets users make free calls, send instant messages, and post photos or short videos, along with a host of other paid services. Photograph: (Getty)

Reuters Tokyo, Japan Jul 15, 2016, 07.28 AM (IST)
Shares of Japanese messaging app operator Line Corp surged almost 50 per cent in Tokyo on Friday after soaring as much as 36 per cent in their US market debut, valuing the startup at $9.3 billion in the biggest tech IPO this year.

The shares first traded in the Tokyo Stock Exchange at 4,900 Yen, or 48.5 per cent above their IPO price of 3,300 Yen, helped by demand from investors hungry for a rare chance to invest in a tech startup.

In New York, the offering of 22 million American Depository Shares (ADSs) from the world's seventh-most used messenger app company was well-accepted, with the shares closing at $41.58, well above the IPO price of $32.84.

"Considering that Line is little known in the United States, the IPO seems to be a success," said a fund manager at a Japanese asset management firm.

The Tokyo-based company's decision to list first in New York is seen as a sign of its determination to challenge its global peers as it seeks to expand outside Japan and Southeast Asia.

Line is controlled by South Korea's Naver Corp.

After the offering, Naver's ownership dropped to 80.8 per cent.

The app has a lot of ground to cover in major Western markets, where Facebook Inc's Messenger and WhatsApp are dominant, and in China, where Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat is popular.

As of March, Line had 218 million monthly active users (MAUs). WhatsApp leads the pack with about 1 billion MAUs, while Facebook Messenger is No. 2 with 900 million.

Line's messaging app was launched in the aftermath of Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami to overcome downed communications, growing unexpectedly to become the country's dominant mobile messaging platform over the next few years.

The bulk of Line's revenue comes from games and sales of emojis and electronic stickers. The company's revenue and other operating income rose about 28.3 per cent to 120.88 billion Yen in 2015.

Line reported a loss of 7.97 billion Yen in 2015, compared with a year-earlier profit of 2 billion Yen.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Nomura are among the underwriters to the IPO.

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