2020.05.28 Corporate Announcement
Alliance with US-based Webtoon Entertainment Inc. aims to increase publication of original digital mangas and accelerate global business expansion
TOKYO – May 28, 2020 – LINE Corporation ("LINE") resolved at its board of directors meeting on May 27, 2020 to transfer the shares of LINE Digital Frontier Corporation ("LINE Digital Frontier"), a LINE Group company and operator of Japan's leading digital comic service*1 LINE Manga, to Webtoon Entertainment Inc. ("Webtoon Ent").
*1 LINE Manga is the most downloaded manga app in Japan (as of April 2020; combined downloads from App Store and Google Play; Source: App Annie)
Until May 27, 2020, 70% of LINE Digital Frontier belonged to LINE and 30% belonged to NAVER WEBTOON Corporation (“NAVER WEBTOON”). However, after the share transfer, recapitalization will make LINE Digital Frontier and NAVER WEBTOON both wholly-owned subsidiaries of Webtoon Ent. Furthermore, LINE will use the consideration received on transferring its shares of LINE Digital Frontier to Webtoon Ent to acquire an estimated 33.4% stake in Webtoon Ent. LINE Digital Frontier will continue to keep the same company name and service name LINE Manga after recapitalization and closely collaborate with LINE Group's other services. Lastly, LINE will continue to support LINE Manga from all aspects including marketing, personnel, and as a platform.
For an overview of the share transfer, please see the following IR disclosure document:
Notice Regarding Change in Specified Subsidiary
1. Background and purpose of recapitalization
LINE Manga launched in April 2013 as a digital comic service for smartphones that allows users to purchase and read comics all within a single app. Since launch, LINE Manga has been enriching its content through various efforts including the addition of the Free Series, establishment of an internal LINE Manga editorial team, release of a feature enabling the general public to post their own original manga, and expansion of its inventory. Furthermore, the app UI has been constantly improved to provide a better user experience. In June 2018, in order to further grow its manga service, LINE entered into a capital alliance and partnership with NAVER WEBTOON, operator of the eponymous web-based manga service that ranked number one in 70 countries at the time. In the following month, LINE Digital Frontier was established as a joint venture, and became LINE Manga's business operator. In January 2019, LINE Manga merged its service with XOY, the free web-based manga service operated by NAVER WEBTOON in Japan. Many of LINE Manga's original series have been adapted into a television series or anime, including Bungaku Shojo, Giso Furin, and Tower of God—triggering a new mixed media trend expanding beyond the digital comic realm. The LINE Manga app has been downloaded over 27 million times in Japan as of April 1, 2020, making it the country's most popular digital comic service.*2
*2 LINE Manga has ranked number one on App Annie as the most downloaded manga app in Japan, for having the most active users (as of April 2020) and for the highest average time spent (between April 2019 and April 2020); combined total from App Store and Google Play; Source: App Annie)
In 2004, NAVER WEBTOON launched its own series of original web-based manga services in Korea under the name NAVER WEBTOON, and continues to operate in over 100 countries. NAVER WEBTOON's services – including LINE Webtoon, a global web-based manga service mainly popular in the United States, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Thailand, and Naver Series, a paid comic and novel service – collectively offer nearly 2,300 original works and over 1.2 million titles globally. This makes Webtoon Ent also one of the top-ranking service providers in the US. NAVER WEBTOON’s MAU in the US alone surpassed 10 million in 2019 after the distribution of locally produced comics helped the service gain popularity particularly among younger users in America. Furthermore, additional language support for Spanish and French that began in the same year has been attracting a large user base in South America and Europe.
After LINE Digital Frontier was established as a joint venture, NAVER WEBTOON's original series began distributing on LINE Manga in Japan. Among them, True Beauty (which has more than 1.5 million monthly LINE Manga readers in Japan*3) and Gaiken Shijo Shugi have achieved massive popularity as two of the most famous comics on the platform.
*3 As of March 2020
LINE Manga and NAVER WEBTOON's combined global MAU is approximately 62 million as of March 2020—making them the most popular digital manga platforms in the world.
After LINE Digital Frontier becomes a subsidiary of Webtoon Ent as a result of recapitalization, Webtoon Ent will concentrate its management resources and reinforce its relationship with LINE Digital Frontier as the same group company. LINE Digital Frontier can also learn from Webtoon Ent's knowledge and experience of operating a world-class digital comic service, and receive personnel support to publish more original mangas as well as discover and help more digital cartoonists flourish. The company will also make a bold investment to accelerate business growth and make LINE Manga the undefeatable, dominant digital manga platform in Japan. The recapitalization will also allow LINE Manga to leverage economies of scale by connecting with Webtoon services popular in many countries including the US and Korea and lead efforts to give itself, Japanese mangas, and digital artists in Japan more opportunities to reach a global audience.
Benefits for the Webtoon Ent Group include a chance to distribute more mangas in Japan (known to have a large digital comic market), increased synergy through business operation in multiple countries, and economies of scale. Furthermore, the Webtoon Ent Group's global platform will be leveraged to seamlessly connect original mangas and digital artists around the world and actively promote manga distribution in various media formats in collaboration with global players to become the world's number one content platform.
2. New business structure
LINE Digital Frontier plans to welcome Jun Koo Kim, CEO of Webtoon Ent and NAVER WEBTOON, as its Representative Director and CEO. Other executive officers will be announced once they are determined.
3. Overview of companies
LINE Digital Frontier Corporation
(1) Name: LINE Digital Frontier Corporation
(2) Location of head office: 4-1-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
(3) Representative: Takeshi Idezawa, Representative Director and CEO
(4) Business: Operation of the digital manga service, LINE Manga
(5) Capital: JPY 100 million (as of December 31, 2019)
(6) Established: July 2, 2018
Webtoon Entertainment Inc.
(1) Name: Webtoon Entertainment Inc.
(2) Location of head office: 5750 Wilshire Blvd. Ste 640, LA, CA 90036
(3) Representative: Jun Koo Kim
(4) Business: Operation of a digital manga service
(5) Capital: USD 315,514.64
(6) Established: September 9, 2016
NAVER WEBTOON Corporation
(1) Name: NAVER WEBTOON Corporation
(2) Location of head office: 117, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
(3) Representative: Jun Koo Kim
(4) Business: Distribution of internet services and online information, electronic publishing services, etc.
(5) Capital: KRW 1.1 billion
(6) Established: May 1, 2017