Move over stickers and games: Japanese messaging app firm Line has announced it’s raising around 148.1 billion yen ($1.33BN) through convertible bonds to fund aggressive expansion into the financial services business, Reuters reports.
Line said it plans to spend most of the money on promoting its Line Pay service and for other new financial services by the end of 2021.
The messaging platform has been involved in payment offerings for some years, launching Line Pay at the end of 2014 — to let users make payments through the app at affiliated online and offline stores by registering their credit cards.
Line Pay also supports p2p payments between users of the platform, which has some 164M monthly active users in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.
While popular in parts of Asia, the messaging platform has failed to grow usage beyond its core regions — unsurprisingly given how fiercely competitive the space is — with the likes of China’s WeChat and Facebook owned WhatsApp standing in its way. But while user growth has stalled, Line has managed to grow revenue from its existing user base. And doubling down on financial services looks to be its growth strategy going forward.
It has recently started experimenting with crypto — announcing the forthcoming launch of a cryptocurrency token (called Link) late last month, and developing its own blockchain to power it, in what looks to be a bid to drive user engagement on its platform. Though it has long used a digital currency (Line Coins) on its platform.
Earlier this year Line also announced the launch of a Singapore-based crypto exchange, called BitBox.
It’s not doing an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for the Link token launch, presumably to side-step the legal questions around token sales. So the convertible bond sale looks to be its alternative (traditional) route for raise funds for the push to grow its financial services business.
In a statement today Line said it would issue zero coupon convertible bonds maturing in 2023 and 2025.
Reuters reports that a portion of the bonds will be issued to its South Korea-based parent Naver Corp to maintain its ownership above a certain level.
It added that Naver’s stake would fall to 70.42 percent from the current 72.86 percent when all the bonds are converted into stock.
In the document announcing the forthcoming issuance of the bonds, Line also says it will use some of the funding (~$430M) for further investment in AI, including its Line Clova AI assistant and “related services”.