Japanese messaging app Line shares surge in debut in Tokyo

TOKYO – Line Corp.’s shares surged in its debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Friday, a day after its initial public offering in New York, as investors cashed in on the popular Japanese messaging app that features emoticons.

The biggest technology sector IPO of the year for both nations, Line rose Friday above its IPO price of 3,300 yen, settling at 4,345 yen, although it started higher at 4,900 yen. It cost $41.58 in New York on Thursday.

The company’s share offerings raised more than $1.1 billion.

Line has grown to 218 million users, mostly in Asia, especially Japan. It’s growing in the Middle East but isn’t catching on in the U.S. or Europe amid competition from Snapchat, Facebook messenger and other social media.

Line sells pictorial “stamps” to decorate messages, sells bear and bird dolls and mascot items and offers free voice calls and chats. It’s owned by South Korean search engine company Naver Corp.

The money Line raises will go into a mobile operator service that it’s planning to start soon in Japan, and expansions into other countries.

Line has spread to 200 nations, but is the top messaging app in only four countries: Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkmenistan, according to SimilarWeb, a company that analyzes the device market.

It is also popular in Indonesia and Myanmar, it said. In Japan, people use it for more than just messaging, such as playing games, averaging nearly 43 minutes a day on the app.

The striking quality of Line is how it has converted its online business into real-life product sales, and how it has built its brand as an online retail site and other areas, not just messaging, and has business clients that help it make money.


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