DEC 15, 2023
Exploring the motivations behind Crescendo’s multi-million dollar investment in LINE NEXT
In a move that has made headlines as the largest investment made in the Asian blockchain and Web3 industry this year, Seoul-based private equity firm Crescendo Equity Partners has decided to invest $140 million in LINE NEXT, the NFT business arm of Tokyo-based Internet giant LINE Corporation. According to South Korean news outlet DealSite, this can be seen as a strategic decision to leverage LINE’s global network, which dominates the Japanese market. Considering Crescendo’s track record of successful investments in various IT companies, the industry is keen to see whether the firm can replicate this success in the rapidly growing blockchain sector.
Consortium takes control
According to the South Korean Financial Supervisory Service’s (FSS) Data Analysis, Retrieval and Transfer (DART) System on Thursday (local time), Crescendo’s special purpose company (SPC) established to manage the LINE NEXT investment dubbed Ludwig Holdings will act as a third party in the investment by providing KRW 130 billion in paid-in capital. Other financial investors will also contribute KRW 52 billion through a consortium formed with Crescendo, bringing the total investment amount to KRW 182 billion, or approximately $140 million.
As a result of this capital increase, 795,401 new shares will be issued. Crescendo’s consortium will thus secure a 50% stake plus one more share, making it the largest shareholder group. However, among individual shareholders, LY Corporation will maintain its position as the single largest shareholder. The existing number of shares was 795,400. Crescendo plans to utilize its third fund, which raised KRW 1.1 trillion in 2021, to provide the funds by next February.
Although the consortium has become the largest shareholder group, there is no indication of an immediate change in LINE NEXT’s current management board. This decision is likely because blockchain development companies should be run by executives who are familiar with the unique ins and outs of the blockchain industry. The firm’s current CEO, Ko Young-su, is an IT expert who had been responsible for financial technology (fintech) operations at LINE Corp.
Through the investment, LINE NEXT plans to popularize Web3 by expanding its global platform and developing new services. This includes DOSI, a global mobile NFT marketplace app for trading digital products, which will be integrated with LINE’s Japanese NFT marketplace LINE NFT. DOSI’s launch is scheduled for January next year.
Navigating uncharted territory
Many believe that LINE NEXT’s ambitions for dominating the blockchain sector aligning with Crescendo’s tradition of investing in promising IT companies is sufficient justification for the major funding decision. However, some observers find the development surprising, considering the fact that it is rare for private equity firms in Korea to make such large investments in blockchain firms — an industry that has mostly been an unpopular choice for investors, likely due to its close association with crypto assets. Indeed, Crescendo’s interest in the company may have been partly driven by the fact that it is more focused on blockchain technology itself rather than crypto.
“Crescendo seems to have focused on LINE’s global network, which pushed it to invest in its subsidiary. Considering the popularity of NFTs and other related projects last year, expanding this area of business seems plausible,” said an anonymous source from the investment banking industry. “Peter Thiel [the billionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist who sponsored Crescendo] is known to have a keen interest in blockchain technology and is actively making investments in the sector, which probably made the decision-making process much smoother.”
This development signifies yet another shift in the evolving business landscape, where parts of the industry that have not been traditionally associated with blockchain are increasingly recognizing the potential of its role in the future of industry and technology.