Last week saw Lee Hae-jin, CEO of NAVER Corp., the country's largest Internet portal operator, ranked No. 1 among Korean stock-rich business owners, in terms of valuation gains on his stock holdings. The combined value of Lee's shares rose to 1.1 trillion won (US$1.24 billion), more than a two-fold increase, from 507.4 billion won, posted at the end of December 2012, according to data released by market research firm FnGuide.
While Naver is very firmly established as Korea's primary internet search portal (claiming over 85% of the domestic search market) its global presence has been dramatically boosted through the highly popular LINE messenger, a competitor service to the likes of WeChat and WhatsApp. LINE was released about nine months after domestic competitor Kakao Talk launched, but has proven a much bigger success globally, claiming over 300M users to Kakao Talks 100M+. Naver now aims to consolidate its position outside Asia, and hopes that the acquisition of Taiwan's GogoLook, who's flagship product is Whoscall, a caller ID app that has 1.2 million monthly active users and over 600 million numbers in its database, according to TechCrunch.
Naver now aims to rival the likes of Google and Facebook, with grand ambitions of infiltrating every aspect of the daily digital lives of a growing percentage of global users. While this year's figures are impressive (a three-fold increase in share price for example), it remains to be seen if this success can be maintained and if Naver can really have the impact on our daily lives that the Googles and Facebooks of the world have (see more on this here). I live in Korea and I don't use either Naver or LINE, preferring Google for search and Kakao Talk for it's almost complete coverage of the Korean smartphone messaging environment.