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Global chat app LINE set to decide on listing

All News 09:15 June 10, 2016

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- LINE Corp., the Japanese arm of South Korea's internet giant Naver Corp., is to hold a board meeting here and in Japan Friday to decide on its initial public offering (IPO), an informed source said.

"A board meeting on the IPO is imminent. Board members will meet both in South Korea and Japan Friday to make a decision," said the source familiar with the matter.

Naver, South Korea's largest internet portal, owns 100 percent of LINE, which is based in Japan and operates a mobile messenger of the same name that is extremely popular in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia. The number of LINE's monthly active users came to 215 billion as of December last year.

Naver Chairman Lee Hae-jin, who doubles as chief of LINE, is expected to attend the board meeting to seek approval for the company's listing from other board members, the source said.

Early this month Japan's Nihon Keizai reported that LINE will likely list its shares in the U.S. and Japan as early as July. Reuters later reported an investor relations session for the envisioned IPO will be held on Friday.

Naver reputed the reports, saying "no decision has been made."

But market watchers consider LINE's IPO as a foregone conclusion. Naver will reportedly hire Nomura, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan as advisers, list LINE shares on the Japanese stock market and issue American depositary receipts in the New York bourse.

Japan's public broadcaster NHK and other media reported that the Tokyo Stock Exchange will give the go-ahead to LINE's listing, predicting its market value to reach some 6.5 trillion won.

LINE has been engulfed in speculation over its listing in the United States since July 2014. The company has insisted that it is considering such an option but nothing specific has been decided.

Naver has been faced with bad optics on the issue with some suspecting the primary purpose of the IPO is to enable top managers and its employees to exercise their stock options for a profit.

Of LINE's 175 million outstanding shares, 14.6 percent have been granted to its senior managers and staff members in stock options since 2012, which could be exercised only when the company is listed. Stock options give holders the right to sell shares at an agreed-upon price within a certain period or on a specific date.

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