Japan’s SoftBank Corp plans to merge internet unit Yahoo Japan with messaging app operator Line Corp to create a $30 billion tech giant, as it strives better compete to with local rival Rakuten and US tech powerhouses.
The deal, which would combine the providers of two of Japan’s top QR code payment services, offers SoftBank access to 164 million Line users and their data in Japan and Southeast Asia as it expands into services outside its core wireless business.
It also offers Line a deep-pocket patron who can offer its tech expertise, including potentially via the giant Vision Fund.
The deal comes as SoftBank Group founder Masayoshi Son battles to restore his reputation after a disastrous investment in office-sharing firm WeWork.
Telecoms firm SoftBank Corp said in a statement that Yahoo Japan, which last month changed its name to Z Holdings Corp, would aim to complete its merger with Line, owned by South Korea’s Naver Corp, in October 2020.
The companies plan to reach a definitive agreement by next month in a transaction that would see SoftBank Corp and Naver form a 50:50 venture that would control Z Holdings, which in turn would operate Yahoo Japan and Line.
SoftBank Corp and Naver, which owns 73 per cent of money-losing Line, plan to launch a tender offer for Line’s remaining shares at 5,200 yen each — a 13.4 per cent premium to the shares’ price before news of the merger broke. That values Line at about $12 billion.
Line’s shares closed up 2.2 per cent at 5,150 yen after the announcement. Shares in Z Holdings rose 1.2 per cent, with Naver’s shares up 2.9 per cent and SoftBank Corp’s down 0.3 per cent.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Banking