Market Insight

LINE targets emerging markets with stripped down LINE Lite app

July 27, 2015

Jun Wen Woo Jun Wen Woo Senior Research Analyst – Online Video, IHS Markit

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Messaging app and mobile content and services platform LINE introduced LINE Lite, a new Android app, less than 1MB in size to target low-end smartphone users in emerging markets. Most LINE features remain the same except for audio, video calls and timeline. The application will maximize the user experience while reducing the dependence on network infrastructure and availability of high end devices. The lite version of LINE will be released in eleven countries including Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Korea and Vietnam.

Launched in 2011, LINE is owned by LINE Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean NAVER Corporation. Most popular in Japan, it has 205 million monthly active users in the first quarter of 2015, with more than half of them located in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. In September 2014, LINE announced plans to postpone its IPO to focus on international expansion. In April 2015, LINE renewed the expired paperwork for IPO on the Tokyo Stock Exchange but further information regarding its plan was not disclosed.

Our analysis:

LINE has been diversifying its portfolio in content and services

LINE first monetised its users through games and stickers and now it has extended its platform to commerce, music and other services. The list of services offered by LINE includes: music LINE Music (Japan and Thailand); online payments LINE Pay (Global); maps application LINE Maps for Indoor (Japan); video service LINE TV (Thailand and Taiwan); commerce services LINE MALL (Japan) and LINE MART (Taiwan); taxi service LINE TAXI (Japan); food delivery service LINE WOW (Japan); and part-time job information service LINE Part Time Job (Japan).

Besides the wide range of services, LINE has invested in different content businesses through its LINE Game Global Gateway fund and LINE Life Global Gateway fund. Both funds are part of LINE’s efforts to expand its gaming business and enhance its collaboration with commerce and media service providers.

LINE’s acquisitions and investments include

Acquisition:

  • Gumi – game developer
  • MixRadio – music service
  • WebPay mobile payment

Funding:

  • 4.33 Creative Labs – game developer
  • 3 Minute – production company specializing in female Youtubers
  • Pocket-menu – provider of restaurant reservation and payment service
  • TriFort – app developer
  • PlayNext – game developer

LINE Lite focuses on audience growth ahead of monetisation

It will not be easy for LINE to repeat its Japanese success in other markets. Japanese users spend the most on mobile content – more than three times the rate of Western Europe. The launch of the LINE Lite app shows that the company’s emerging market strategy recognises the limitations it faces in those countries where user spending is lower and access to high end smartphones and data networks is more limited. LINE Lite’s purpose is to help LINE acquire and engage new users ahead of future monetisation.  

Organization
LINE
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