Two years after the first reports of an IPO emerged, Japan’s Line Corporation — the company behind the popular messaging app Line, and possibly the first of the big messaging apps to go public — today announced that it has filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange in the U.S. and the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan, trading as LN. The company today said in a news release that the NYSE listing is planned for July 14 with the Tokyo listing on July 15. The Tokyo exchange has already approved its listing of common stock, and the SEC F-1 filing for the U.S. part of the IPO will appear later today, the company added.
The announcement in English linked above did not provide details of how much Line, which is valued at over $4 billion, plans to raise, but those numbers have been made public on documents filed on the Tokyo exchange (in Japanese), and Line has confirmed the numbers to me directly: it hopes to raise $1 billion (113 billion yen) in the IPO, offering 35 million shares with an over-allotment of 5.25 million shares and 13 million of that in Japan. Pricing will be set June 27, with final price revealed July 11. The offering values the company at ¥588 billion ($5.5 billion).
The company tells me that it now has 218 million monthly active users globally, with 152 million in its top 4 countries in Asia. It will be aiming to use the huge fundraise to take on growth in new markets.
“After rounds of serious investigations, we determined that it is important that we are evaluated on the same market as other top global services. Furthermore, listing on the NYSE will help strengthen our branding as a global company,” a spokesperson told me. “LINE is a company that takes on challenges, and our simultaneous listing in Japan and the US is a declaration that we are ready to take on the world.”
Competitors like Messenger and WhatsApp, both owned by Facebook, cumulatively have billions of users. Other rivals include Rakuten-owned Viber and China’s WeChat (owned by Tencent). Line is one of the biggest of the messaging apps to still remain independent of any larger owner, and the first to go public.
Line has been evaluating an IPO since 2014, with the first reports emerging exactly two years to the date of its proposed actual listing.
“LINE, a principal subsidiary of the Company, is evaluating a potential listing in Japan and/or the United States. In connection therewith, LINE has submitted certain documentation, including a listing application, to relevant authorities such as the Tokyo Stock Exchange,” a company spokesperson at the time told me in an email. “However, determinations regarding whether to ultimately list, listing venue and listing timing, etc, have not been made. We will provide an update once such determinations are made or within one month of this disclosure.”
It’s not clear whether Line thought the market would rise even more ahead, or if it still thought it could use a delay to scale more before a listing and use the time to improve its monetization. All of those have happened to some extent, with the launch of a raft of new services and features, some of which (such as third-party services ordered, paid for and delivered within the app’s messaging framework) replicated elsewhere.
But on the financial front, times have really changed in the last two years. When reports first emerged of the company looking to list, it was actually estimated to be valued at around ¥1 trillion — almost double today’s valuation, which is a mark perhaps of how over-inflated prices were then, or how tough the messaging market is and appears to be consolidating rapidly with the big simply getting bigger.
The NYSE proposed IPO, the company said, will be of a new listing of American Depository Shares representing shares of common stock. It’s notable not just for the size of the IPO, but also because of the fact that this is the first time that a Japanese company is listing both in Tokyo and the NYSE.
We’ll be updating this as we learn more.