Is Kakao seeking to acquire eBay Korea? - Korea Times
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Is Kakao seeking to acquire eBay Korea?

By Kim Bo-eun

The looming sale of eBay Korea is drawing keen attention as a number of potential suitors, including conglomerates, private equity firms, as well as a tech firm, are known to have expressed interest.

According to reports, investment banks managing eBay's sale sent out teaser letters to potential buyers last month after the company was put up for sale in January. Possible buyers being mentioned are Shinsegae and Lotte groups which operate major retail businesses, private equity firm MBK Partners and tech company Kakao. Preliminary bidding will begin March 16.

The e-commerce giant's local unit is reported to have a price tag of 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion).

eBay Korea currently operates the localized platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.

According to Statistics Korea, eBay accounted for 12 percent of a total 161 trillion won in e-commerce transactions in Korea last year, while generating sales of 1.3 trillion won and an operating profit of 85 billion won from commissions collected from items sold on its open market platform.

The Korean unit's sales account for 11 percent of eBay's overall revenue, and eBay Korea's performance has shown steady growth since 2015. Sales, which stood at 799.4 billion won in 2015, surpassed 1 trillion won for the first time in 2019.

The Korean unit is owned 100 percent by eBay KTA, the U.K. subsidiary of the e-commerce company, which is in turn wholly owned by eBay.

Shinsegae Group has various online retail channels including SSG.com and E-mart Traders, but it lacks a presence in the open market sector. Acquiring an open market platform would scale up its e-commerce business, as it competes with giants Coupang and Naver. A key area of focus for Shinsegae has been early morning delivery.

Lotte, meanwhile, is known to be seeking ways to boost its online retail channel, while its existing e-commerce unit Lotte ON has been struggling.

For private equity firm MBK Partners, which owns the discount chain Homeplus, acquiring eBay Korea could create synergy by strengthening its e-commerce business.

Kakao has been cited as one of the most likely candidates. The tech firm has a commerce affiliate Kakao Commerce under its arm, which has shown rapid growth with shopping and gift services via the KakaoTalk messaging platform. The gift service had 20 million users as of the end of last year. But Kakao Commerce's scale is still considered small considering the influence Kakao holds with its messaging platform.

"(A deal) is under review but nothing has been fixed as of now," a Kakao official said.


Kim Bo-eun bkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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