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Business deals

Naver to buy Canadian storytelling platform Wattpad for $600m

South Korean internet giant keen to expand content business beyond Asia

South Korean internet company Naver has agreed to buy Canada's Wattpad for at least $600 million. (Source photos by AP)

SEOUL -- Naver, South Korean's largest internet company, announced on Wednesday that it will acquire Canadian self-publishing platform Wattpad for $600 million as it looks to expand its digital contents business outside of Asia.

Naver said it will buy a 100% stake in Wattpad for 653 billion won ($595 million), to be paid in cash. Wattpad is the world's largest social storytelling platform, with more than 90 million users spending a total of 23 billion minutes per month on the site, according to the deal announcement.

"Wattpad joining Webtoon under the Naver umbrella will be a big step toward us becoming a leading global multimedia entertainment company," said Naver Webtoon founder and CEO Kim Jun-koo in a statement. "Both Wattpad and Webtoon care most about helping creators tell their story their way, and both represent world-leading collections of inspired, imaginative storytelling IP."

Webtoon, a subsidiary of Naver, is a leading digital platform for visual storytelling, with more than 72 million global monthly readers.

The deal comes as Naver expands its operations beyond Asia, including in the U.S., Europe and South America. In November, the U.S. unit of Naver Webtoon signed partnership agreements with three Hollywood studios to turn their web-based cartoons into animated films. Naver Webtoon reached 10 million monthly active users in the U.S. in 2019.

Webcomics and web stories have already proved ripe for adaptation into other media. Naver Webtoon's horror strip "Sweet Home" was turned into a Netflix original series last month, becoming the platform's most popular show in South Korea and the third most popular globally in December. Wattpad has also seen a number of successes, with several book deals, as well as TV and film adaptations like the "After" franchise, Hulu's series "Light as a Feather" and the hit Indonesian Vidio Originals series "Turn On."

The acquisition will allow Wattpad to continue to accelerate its international growth and success, the company said. It will remain headquartered in Canada under the continued leadership of founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen.

"Today's news is about continuing Wattpad's journey and taking our business to the next level," Lau, who is also CEO, said in a statement. "We're thrilled about the prospect of joining the amazing teams at Naver and Webtoon to continue our growth, help more writers make money, and bring new voices to screens and bookstores everywhere."

The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close within the first half of this year. The price could be increased to up to 708 billion won if a portion is paid via stock swap, Naver said.

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