eBay In Talks To Buy Stake In Korean Competitor Gmarket

    August 13, 2008

eBay is in talks to buy a minority stake in South Korean competitor Gmarket and is in discussions with Interpark to buy its 37 percent stake.

The companies are waiting for approval from the Korea Fair Trade Commission, eBay spokesman Jose Mallabo said.

"There can be no assurance that the KFTC will approve the possible transaction, that an agreement will be reached or that a transaction will occur," Mallabo said in a statement.

Interpark is the largest shareholder in Gmarket and directly held 29.3 percent stake of the company along with Interpark’s chairman, Ki Hyung Lee who directly holds 7.3 percent as of December, according to Gmarket’s latest annual report filed in June.

Yahoo owns a 10 percent stake in Gmarket and if the KFTC approves the transaction, eBay would have a controlling share in the company.

Gmarket operates a market place similar to eBay and has more than 10 million registered users in South Korea, representing over a fifth of the country’s population of 48 million.

"The Korean market, due to its relatively more mature nature, is probably a good indicator of what’s to come in Asia as well as other markets, and this is mostly likely very valuable for eBay," RBC Capital Markets analyst Stephen Ju told Reuters.

Instead of continuing to compete with Gmarket, eBay will probably buy out remaining shareholders, Ju said.

In July, Gmarket posted a quarterly profit that beat market estimates, due to gains in its user base and the value of all products sold on the site.