South Korea has just seen a big consolidation move in its web industry: mobile messaging giant Kakao is merging with Daum, the country’s second-biggest web portal firm.
Daum’s big rival is Naver, the portal behind the mobile messaging app Line, so this can be seen as Kakao and Daum uniting against a common, more powerful enemy. As analysts quoted by Korea Joongang Daily have noted, Kakao’s mobile strength will be able to help Daum expand, while Daum will bring needed resources to Kakao — there are shades here of Rakuten’s $900 million Viber takeover.
The merger is a reverse takeover, and the new Daum Kakao company will be listed in October, according to Bloomberg. Kakao had been heading towards its own 2015 IPO, but that’s obviously unnecessary now. Indeed, some see Monday’s merger move as a way of listing via the back door, avoiding the usual time and expense associated with flotation.
The KakaoTalk app has around 145 million registered users, which is behind Line’s 450 million and certainly behind WhatsApp’s half a billion monthly active users (a more select group than registered users). Another big regional rival is WeChat, which has 355 million monthly active users and is owned by China’s TenCent – funnily enough, TenCent is also a shareholder in Kakao.
Daum Kakao will have a market value of approximately 4 trillion won ($3.9 billion), far lower than Naver’s 25.6 trillion won. That said, Kakao’s annual profits went up around 8-fold in 2013 through sticker sales and the like. Naver’s shares dropped 4 percent on Monday while Daum’s jumped 6.7 percent.