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After a long delay, Line may hold an initial public offering

TechCrunch TechCrunch 2/06/2016 Catherine Shu

After postponing it for two years, Line may finally go public. According to reports from the International Financing Review and the Wall Street Journal this week, the company, which is best known for its messaging app, is contemplating a dual initial public listing in Tokyo and New York City this summer.

Line may also hold an IPO in Tokyo as soon as next month, says the WSJ.

A Line spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company does not “have any confirmed decision at the moment.” If it goes forward, the IPO may raise $2 billion to $3 billion and value Line at more than $5 billion.

This is almost less than half of the $9.8 billion valuation Line reportedly anticipated when it first applied to go public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in summer 2014. But the company, a subsidiary of South Korean Internet giant Naver, postponed its plans in order to tackle growth in global markets.

A few months later, in December 2014, Its former COO, Takeshi Idezawa, was appointed to CEO. Just before his promotion was announced, Idezawa told TechCrunch that the company wanted to prioritize growth and user engagement before holding an IPO.

Despite its efforts, however, Line failed to establish an international foothold and its user growth has plateaued, with just four Asian countries—Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia—accounting for about 69 percent of its 218 million monthly active users.

The messaging app landscape is also different than it was two years ago. After a wave of consolidation, a handful of players (WeChat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger) have pulled ahead in many of the markets Line wanted to tackle.

Line makes most of its revenue through sticker sales and in-app games, but it’s also attempted to build its messaging app into a platform with enough services (streaming music, mobile payments, food delivery, taxi hailing, shopping, digital assistants etc.) to become indispensable to users as they go about their daily lives. The company created a $42 million fund to invest in services that it can potentially integrate and also made several acquisitions, including streaming music service MixRadio.

It’s still unclear, however, if Line’s efforts to grow into a lifestyle platform (a strategy WeChat has excelled at) will succeed and there are already signs it may be struggling. For example, in February, Line announced the closure of MixRadio, just 14 months after purchasing it from Microsoft.

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