eBay Korea CEO Chung Hang-il poses at the firm’s office in Seoul. Photo courtesy of eBay Korea

Four-way competition underway for online retailer

Korea’s retail giant Lotte Shopping and top mobile operator SK Telecom are striving to take over eBay Korea, an e-commerce company that is up for grabs.

Such outfits as Emart and MBK Partners also reportedly submitted preliminary bids this month to purchase eBay Korea, although they have yet to officially acknowledge it.

By contrast, Lotte and SK Telecom confirmed their participation in the four-way competition. Emart is the country’s top discount chain, and MBK Partners is a homegrown private equity fund.

“We are interested in buying eBay Korea. To check the possible acquisition, we received an investment memorandum. We will disclose the details via the regulatory filing,” Lotte Shopping CEO Kang Hee-tae said during a recent shareholders’ meeting.

“We are sorry for our shareholders because we showed disappointing results in e-commerce due to trials and errors. We will strengthen our capacity by recruiting outside experts.”

Lotte Shopping is an affiliate of Lotte Group, a traditional powerhouse in the offline retail business. The group tapped into the online business with the launch of Lotte On in 2019. But the online shopping platform failed to impress.

SK Telecom CEO Park Jung-ho also talked about the issue during a shareholders’ meeting this week.

“As far as the acquisition of eBay is concerned, we have to take many things into account,” Park said. “We are in consultation with Amazon.”

SK Telecom has collaborated with Amazon to come up with new services.

Operating such brands as Gmarket, Auction, and G9, eBay Korea is one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in the country. The Korea eBay operation has an expected value of more than $4 billion.

eBay Korea ruled the market in the early- and mid-2010s but lost its top position in the past few years because of new powerhouses as Coupang, which went public in New York last month.

Currently, CEO Chun Hang-il is in charge of the company. He took the position early this year. After his inauguration, eBay Korea went through the sales procedures.

“SK Telecom and Lotte announced their willingness to buy eBay Korea. Emart and MBK also joined the bidding,” Samsung Securities analyst Park Eun-kyung said.

“As the market share of eBay Korea is considerably big at around 7~8 percent, the rivalry for the firm is fierce. Its value is estimated at around $4.4 billion.”

After due diligence in the following months, the final bidding is expected to take place in May or June.

When contacted, eBay Korea officials refused to comment.