Qoo10 one of the frontrunners to buy eBay Korea

Qoo10 is being viewed as one of the strongest candidates to buy eBay’s South Korean operations, as its chief executive officer Ku Young-bae has strong ties with the U.S. ecommerce giant.

The Singapore-based company was founded in 2010 as a joint venture between Ku and eBay, with stakes of 51% and 49% respectively. The online shopping platform has localized marketplaces in Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China, and has been the largest ecommerce firm by gross merchandise volume in Singapore for years.

Ku is known as a self-made entrepreneur in the ecommerce space. A co-founder of online shopping mall Interpark, Ku also founded Gmarket in 2003, which was initially launched as Interpark’s subsidiary. Gmarket’s gross merchandise value reached 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in 2009, when the platform was sold to eBay for $1.2 billion.

“Ku has long been interested in eBay Korea, which operates Gmarket,” an insider said. “He clearly has a strong attachment to Gmarket, which he himself founded.”

In 2018, eBay acquired Qoo10 Japan for $573 million in an attempt to make a foray into the Japanese ecommerce market, but it struggled and exited in 2002. The deal cemented the strong relationship between Ku and eBay, industry watchers said.

“Many are considering Qoo10 as one of the strongest candidates to buy eBay Korea because of their strong ties,” said another industry insider.

However, it is uncertain whether Qoo10 would be able to raise the necessary capital to fund the acquisition. EBay Korea is estimated to be worth about 5 trillion won.

Qoo10 does not disclose its financial results, but sources said that its revenue reached 1 trillion won in 2016 and has grown at an annual rate of 30% to 40%.

The company raised $82 million in a series A funding in 2015, before raising 30 billion won from Seoul-based private equity firm Corstone Asia last year. It reportedly aims to list on Nasdaq.

“If Qoo10 decides to bid for eBay Korea, it could probably look to work with a financial investor,” said an official at a private equity firm in Seoul. (Reporting by Byung-yoon Kim and Si-eun Park)