UPDATED: Interpark in discussions to sell Shares in Gmarket to eBay

By: Richard Brewer-Hay

It’s obviously early in the discussions but it appears that Interpark and Interpark’s Chairman, Ki Hyung Lee, are discussing the possibility of selling their shares in Gmarket to eBay. No one is confirming anything beyond the fact that a preliminary filing has been made with the Korean Fair Trade Commission.

eBay Stake in South Korea's Gmarket

eBay issued the following statement this morning:
“eBay Inc., Interpark and Interpark’s Chairman, Ki Hyung Lee, confirmed today that they are in discussions about a possible sale to eBay Inc. of Interpark’s and Ki Hyung Lee’s interests in Gmarket. While no definitive agreement has yet been signed or reached, in connection with the discussions, a voluntary preliminary filing has been made with the Korea Fair Trade Commission and preliminary approval of the KFTC is being sought. 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. None of the parties currently intends to comment further about this matter until such time, if ever, that they enter into a definitive agreement providing for the completion of a transaction.”

Gmarket
Founded in 2000, Gmarket has been referred to as the Korean version of Amazon and boasts over 10 million registered users. Gmarket is Korea’s leading ecommerce website in terms of GMV. According to its website, Gmarket has over 2 million products currently for sale in 29 different categories.

Auction (IAC), an eBay Company
eBay entered the Korean market in 2001 when it became a majority shareholder in Internet Auction Co, Korea’s largest auction-based ecommerce site. IAC began service in April 1998 as the first Korean company to offer online trading, and has since grown to become the leading service of its kind in Korea.

Like I said, it’s early days yet but with acquisitions accounting for over 40% of eBay total revenue in 2007, it will be interesting to see how this one plays out in the coming year.

UPDATED: 9/25/08
eBay has received preliminary conditional approval from South Korean regulators for the potential stake purchase. eBay issued the following statement earlier today:

While no definitive agreement has yet been signed or reached between eBay, Interpark and its Chairman, Ki Hyung Lee (acting in his individual capacity) in connection with the sale of their interests in GMarket, a preliminary approval with certain conditions has been obtained from the Korea Fair Trade Commission. eBay, Interpark and its Chairman, Ki Hyung Lee believe the conditions should not prevent the parties from proceeding into more formal negotiations. There can be no assurance that an agreement will be reached or that a transaction will occur. None of the parties currently intends to comment further about this matter until such time, if ever, that they enter into a definitive agreement providing for the completion of a transaction.

Related Reads:
eBay Seeking Stake in South Korea’s Gmarket
eBay in Talks to Buy Stake in Korean Rival Gmarket
Reuters company overview for Gmarket
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