SoftBank to create $30bn tech giant through merger

Kentaro Kawabe, CEO and president of Z Holdings, and Takeshi Idezawa, CEO and president of LINE, shake hands ahead of a planned merger. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2019

SoftBank to create $30bn tech giant through merger

  • Deal signals SoftBank move into services outside its core wireless business

TOKYO: SoftBank Corp. plans to merge Internet subsidiary Yahoo Japan with messaging app operator Line Corp. to create a $30 billion tech group, as it strives to compete more effectively with local rival Rakuten and US tech powerhouses.

The deal, which would combine the providers of two of Japan’s top QR code payment services, offers Yahoo Japan access to 164 million Line users and their data in Japan and Southeast Asia as SoftBank expands into services outside its core wireless business.

It also gives loss-making Line a deep-pocketed patron who can offer its tech expertise, including potentially via the Vision Fund.

The deal comes as SoftBank Group founder Masayoshi Son battles to restore his reputation after an ill-fated investment in office-sharing firm WeWork.

SoftBank Corp. said Yahoo Japan, which last month changed its name to Z Holdings Corp, would aim to complete its merger with Line, owned by South Korea’s Naver Corp. , in October 2020.

HIGHLIGHTS

● SoftBank, Naver to form 50:50 joint venture.

● Joint venture will control Yahoo Japan, Line.

● Plan tender offer for Line shares.

The companies plan to reach a definitive agreement by next month under which SoftBank Corp. and Naver will form a 50:50 venture that would control Z Holdings, which in turn would operate Yahoo Japan and Line.

SoftBank Corp. and Naver, which owns 73 percent of Line, plan to launch a tender offer for Line’s remaining shares at 5,200 yen each — a 13.4 percent premium to the price before news of the merger broke. That values Line at about $12 billion.

Line has been looking for growth through expansion into areas such as QR code payments with Line Pay, but has been squeezed because of its limited funds and heavy-spending peers including SoftBank, which has a rival service called PayPay.

The merger of Japan’s most popular messaging app with one of its top online retailers is the latest consolidation in its tech industry, and comes as Rakuten is expanding into SoftBank’s core business with the launch of mobile services.

Yahoo Japan this month completed its acquisition of online fashion retailer Zozo Inc, whose founder Yusaku Maezawa sold down his stake following missteps.


China's aviation regulator raised concerns with Boeing on 737 MAX design changes

Updated 12 December 2019

China's aviation regulator raised concerns with Boeing on 737 MAX design changes

  • China is reviewing the airworthiness of the plane
  • China was first country to ground plane in March

BEIJING: China’s aviation regulator raised “important concerns” with Boeing Co. on the reliability and security of design changes to the grounded 737 MAX, it said on Thursday, but declined to comment on when the plane might fly again in China.
China is reviewing the airworthiness of the plane based on proposed changes to software and flight control systems according to a bilateral agreement with the United States, Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) spokesman Liu Luxu told reporters at a monthly briefing.
He reiterated that for the plane to resume flights in China, it needed to be re-certified, pilots needed comprehensive and effective training to restore confidence in the model and the causes of two crashes that killed 346 people needed to be investigated with effective measures put in place to prevent another one.
China was the first country to ground the 737 MAX after the second crash in Ethiopia in March and had set up a task force to review design changes to the aircraft that Boeing had submitted.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not allow the 737 MAX to resume flying before the end of 2019, its chief, Steve Dickson, said on Wednesday.
Once the FAA approves the reintroduction into service, the 737 MAX can operate in the United States, but individual regulators could keep the planes grounded in other countries until they complete their own reviews.
“Due to the trade war, the jury is still out on when China would reintroduce the aircraft,” said Rob Morris, Global Head of Consultancy at Ascend by Cirium.
Chinese airlines had 97 737 MAX jets in operation before the global grounding, the most of any country, according to Cirium Fleets Analyzer.