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Messaging app LINE eyes Japan, US stock listings

Fast-growing messaging app LINE said Wednesday it was considering a share listing in Tokyo, a day after a report that it was eyeing an offering estimated at a whopping $9.8 billion.

TOKYO: Fast-growing messaging app LINE said Wednesday it was considering a share listing in Tokyo, a day after a report that it was eyeing an offering estimated at a whopping $9.8 billion.

The Tokyo-based firm -- which launched its free messaging service in the aftermath of Japan's 2011 quake-tsunami disaster -- said it was also looking at a possible listing in the United States.

LINE said it had already submitted listing documents to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

"(The company) is evaluating a potential listing in Japan and/or the United States," it said in a statement.

"LINE has submitted certain documentation, including a listing application, to relevant authorities such as the Tokyo Stock Exchange. 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."

The brief statement gave no further details, including the possible size of the deal.

Dow Jones Newswires on Tuesday cited a source as saying LINE could list in Tokyo as soon as the autumn, a move which could raise $9.8 billion.

The firm's messaging service was launched in 2011 by the Japanese unit of South Korean Internet service provider Naver Corp after the quake-tsunami tragedy damaged telecoms infrastructure nationwide, forcing staff to resort to online resources to communicate.

The app now has more than 400 million registered users, mainly in Japan and Asia, and is growing fast in other parts of the world.

One of its main selling points is its "stickers" -- cartoon-like emoticons that users can post to friends.

Neha Dharia, senior analyst at technology research firm Ovum, said in a report that LINE's initial public offering (IPO) could usher in fresh "chat wars" after Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp and Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten's purchase of Viber.

LINE is widely seen as a competitor to WhatsApp, and WeChat, which is owned by Chinese giant Tencent Inc.

The listing "makes perfect sense as it will not only raise its profile further in the market, but it will also provide them with adequate funds to strengthen their product offering", Dharia said.

LINE lets users make free calls, send instant messages and post photos or short videos. It combines attributes from Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp.

It has forged heavyweight partnerships with Spanish football giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, brands such as Coca-Cola and tennis star Rafael Nadal.

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