Line, the operator of a Japanese messaging app that’s popular in Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan, will begin trading in New York on Thursday and in Toyko on Friday in the largest public offering of any tech company this year.
Even though the app is very popular in few Asian countries where the majority of its 218 million monthly users inhabits, and could described as just another chat app, it is everything in the markets it dominates.
Line is best described as a tool to call and message friends, a news and entertainment app, a mobile payments platform, a gaming studio, a music streaming service. Line has opened retail stores, delivered rides and groceries, and sells hundreds of millions of dollars worth of digital stickers a year.
Picture some combination of WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter, Zynga, Spotify and Uber, and you start to get a sense of Line’s sweeping appeal. But as Line notes in its filing to go public, there has been a “significant decrease” in usage outside those few countries where it’s already popular, at a time when rivals like Facebook-owned WhatsApp and WeChat are growing fast globally.
But those growth concerns don’t seem to be cutting into investor interest in Line. The company is expected to raise more than $1 billion from the offering, thanks in part to a scarcity of technology companies going public.
Line, which shelved plans to go public in 2014, has “benefited” this time around “because there are so few deals happening,” says James Gellert, CEO of Rapid Ratings.
It will be just the fifth tech company to go public this year, down from 14 at this point in 2015, according to data from Renaissance Capital. Many of the largest tech startups have chosen to sit out the turbulent stock market and collect larger and larger checks from private investors instead.