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Naver's global webcomic biz on growth track

(Naver)
(Naver)
Naver Corp., South Korea's top internet portal operator, is witnessing a growth in its webcomic business, which will eventually improve its earnings, industry sources said Friday. 

Naver Webtoon, more commonly known as Line Webtoon in the United States, is home to a plethora of creator-owned content, ranging from romance to fantasy.

In particular, Naver Webtoon is showing marked growth in the United States after entering the market in 2014.

The number of its monthly active users, or MAUs, surpassed the 10 million mark in the US in November, nearly doubling from 2014.

Naver Webtoon recorded 60 million MAUs in the global market and is expected to bring in 600 billion won ($519 million) in content transactions this year.

Line Webtoon's US content revenue grew to 13 billion won ($11.1 million) in the third quarter of 2019, up from 2 billion won in the first quarter, according to Naver's corporate filing.

"Along with the steady two-digit growth in its ad business, we are expecting the webcomic operation to lead Naver's content service business," said Ju Young-hoon, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities.

"Naver already has about 60 million monthly users on a global level, meaning the webtoon operation can make inroads in the global market on its own," Ju added.

With the growing global content revenue, he estimated Naver's operating profit in 2020 to advance 47.1 percent to 1.03 trillion won, bouncing back from the previous year's 26.2 percent fall.

Local brokerages continued to paint rosy pictures for Line Webtoon's US revenue hike, citing the company's fourth-quarter estimate by US market tracker Sensor Tower.

According to Sensor Tower data, Line Webtoon's US downloads in the October-December period surged 61 percent on-year. The webtoon provider's US operating profit reached 40 billion won, Sensor Tower estimated.

"In 2020, Naver's webtoon has ample room for a value hike," said Mirae Asset Daewoo analyst Park Jeong-yeob. "The US is a promising market, in terms of both content consumption and monthly active users." (Yonhap)
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