Channel NewsAsia

Line Corp takes on the world

Line is the biggest smartphone messaging app in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand. Chief operating officer of Line Corp, Takeshi Idezawa, talked about how Line plans to keep on growing and attracting more users.

TOKYO: In the three years since it launched its free messaging app, Japan-based Line has attracted more than 430 million users in 230 countries. As the user-base expands, revenue is also skyrocketing. In the first quarter of 2014, revenue was 223 per cent higher than a year earlier at US$144 million.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia correspondent Mike Firn, the chief operating officer of Line Corp, Takeshi Idezawa, talked about how Line plans to keep on growing and attracting more users.

Takeshi Idezawa: In terms of growth, there are two directions. The first will be to grow the number of users all over the world. Secondly, in countries where we have the top market share like Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, we will expand the diversity of services and increase the number of points of contact with users. With these two strategies, we will raise user numbers and increase the amount of time they spend on activities.

Our specific target is five hundred million users by this summer. From there, there is no specific goal planned at this point because it is a very rapidly changing industry. I think there is not much sense in medium-and long-term planning so we`re focusing on short-term goals.

Mike Firn: You mentioned being number one in Japan, Taiwan and Thailand. Which markets offer the biggest growth potential? What are your plans to grow overseas?

Takeshi: We've divided it into three categories. First, are the countries where we've taken the top share, then there are places like Spain, South America and ASEAN countries, where we are acquiring users at a good pace. Another challenge we`re taking on is countries with huge markets like China and the United States. All three groups are equally important.

Mike: First quarter revenue at 14.6 billion yen was 223 per cent higher than a year earlier. How sustainable is that rate of growth? What is driving revenue?

Takeshi: Although our sales have been growing quite well, we're not that conscious of monetisation just yet. We don't have a clear vision of which kind of businesses will expand from now on. All I can say is, since we're setting up a lot of different businesses, our revenue will increase with the help of those (other businesses).

We don`t officially disclose our overseas revenue ratio, but revenue outside of Japan has been increasing more and more. I think this trend will continue, especially in strong growing markets like Taiwan, Thailand and ASEAN.

Mike: What plans do you have to raise more funds for expansion? What are the chances of an IPO in Japan or overseas?

Takeshi: I get this question all the time, but we don't really have a strategy. We want to continue being number one in smartphone-oriented services so we might consider doing something when necessary, but there isn't anything specific at the moment.

Mike: There has been talk of SoftBank buying Line or taking a stake in it. Under what circumstances would you consider selling the company and what value would you put on it?

Takeshi: That is completely hypothetical and we haven't thought about it. We've been expanding our company in our own way, so we haven't considered things like that.

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