Naver Corp., an industry-leading South Korean search engine operator, announced that it partnered with CJ Group’s CJ ENM to secure Munpia Inc. The Munpia acquisition marked the first cooperation between Naver and CJ ENM since their stock-swap deal last year. In October 2020, the two companies strategically signed a 600 billion won ($538 million) agreement to create synergy in their logistics and entertainment content businesses.
Naver also shared that it plans to produce globally competitive entertainment content through the stock-swap deal with CJ ENM. Moreover, the Naver-CJ ENM collaboration would provide funding for content creators. It would also boost their standing in the e-commerce and intelligent logistics sector.
Investment banking sources stated that the Naver-led consortium, which includes local private equity firms, signed a share purchase agreement. Under the deal, the consortium would acquire a 64% share in Munpia and secure its management rights.
Previously, a consortium involving KDB Capital, S2L Partners, and Munpia founder Kim Hwan-Cheol held Munpia’s management rights. Furthermore, Munpia’s founder and CJ ENM would each obtain a 10% share from CLL’s 20% share. CLL, the Chinese tech company Tencent Holdings’ investment unit, is Munpia’s second-largest stakeholder.
Increasing Competition with Kakao
Another South Korean webtoon giant, Kakao Corp., previously showed interest in acquiring Munpia in partnership with NCSoft Corp. However, both companies relinquished the deal last minute. NCSoft is also Munpia’s third-largest stockholder.
According to Naver, it acquired Munpia due to Kakao’s rapid growth in the webtoon industry. Moreover, Naver was the top webtoon service operator in Japan, one of the world’s biggest online comic markets. During 2020’s second half, Kakao’s Piccoma outperformed Line Manga, Naver’s Japanese webtoon unit, taking the top Japanese market spot.
Boosting Content Portfolio
Recently, Naver has been increasing its merger and acquisition transactions. For instance, Naver acquired Wattpad Corp., the world’s largest web novel platform, for 653.3 billion won ($593.6 million) in January. Similarly, in February, Naver invested 33.4 ($30 million) billion won to Tappytoon Comics, a leading US web novel platform.
Munpia is South Korea’s third-largest web novel platform, ranking right after Naver and Kakao. The company also draws a 100-million page view average and more than 400,000 monthly visitors. Currently, Munpia’s platform supports over 47,000 writers.
After acquiring Munpia, Naver would boost its content offering by adapting IPs into various media content, including movies and games. Last year, Munpia recorded a 7.3 billion won ($6.5 million) operating profit. Munpia also logged a 41.7 billion won ($37.5 million) revenue, a massive increase from 2019’s 28.7 billion won.
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