Big news from the Asian Internet industry today: Korea’s web behemoth NHN has sealed a $68 million deal to acquire major Japanese Internet service provider Livedoor from parent company LDH Corp. (whose stakeholders include Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs). LDH also plans to pay a dividend of $32 million ahead of its sale to NHN.
LDH’s main asset is the eponymous portal service whose 30 million unique users per month make it one of the biggest in Japan (it’s ranked No. 7 on Alexa Japan). LDH, formerly known as Livedoor Holdings, delisted in April 2006 in the wake of an accounting fraud scandal. It’s still embroiled in post-scandal lawsuits filed by Livedoor shareholders.
NHN operates Korea’s biggest search engine (Naver) and the country’s top gaming portal (Hangame), offering localized versions for both services in Japan, too. But whereas Hangame Japan boasts 3 million unique visitors per month (it’s the country’s No. 2 gaming site), Naver never made a splash in Japan’s search engine market, where it struggles against Yahoo and Google. In the past few months, NHN repeatedly said it wants to significantly boost its presence in Japan, the third largest Internet nation in the world.
NHN announced that under the deal, Livedoor will become a part of NHN’s Japan unit and keep its brand name. The company will pay for the purchase “sometime before May 15”.