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SoftBank-Backed Coupang Buys Hooq Assets to Take on Netflix

Sohee Kim and Yoolim Lee
·2-min read

(Bloomberg) -- South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang Corp. is buying the software of Hooq Digital Ltd., the Southeast Asian video streaming service owned by Singtel, Sony and Warner Bros that’s filed for liquidation, according to people familiar with the deal.

Coupang has already struck a deal to acquire the assets, the people said, asking not to be named because the information hasn’t been announced.

The deal ushers SoftBank-backed Coupang into a competitive but fragmented video streaming arena and pits it against the likes of Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc. U.S. giants have emerged as frontrunners, squeezing out a number of domestic players with splashier local programming and fuller Hollywood slates. In a sign of accelerating consolidation, Tencent Holdings Ltd. recently agreed to buy the assets of Malaysian streaming platform iFlix Ltd. And last month, ride-hailing giant Gojek won funding from Golden Gate Ventures and other backers for its own video foray.

Coupang, backed also by BlackRock Inc. and Sequoia Capital, has designs too on its own home market. Korea in recent years birthed blockbusters that captivated global audiences from “Parasite” to “Train to Busan,” yet Netflix and Alphabet Inc.’s Youtube remain dominant local players. South Korea’s government announced a plan last month to nurture five homegrown over-the-top or streaming service providers into global companies, and support their growth by expediting deals and investment in content.

A Coupang representative declined to comment.

Read more: Tencent Buys Assets of Struggling Streaming Platform IFlix

Hooq, a joint venture between Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Warner Bros Entertainment Inc., filed for liquidation in March and discontinued service at the end of April. Set up in 2015, it offered movies and drama series across Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and India, but ran into trouble during the pandemic.

Coupang, widely regarded as South Korea’s Amazon, has been aggressively expanding into new businesses such as food delivery and digital payments, mirroring the U.S. giant by broadening its services. The Seoul-based company, founded in 2010 by Chief Executive Officer Bom Kim, was said to be valued at $9 billion in late 2018 and has been eyeing a public listing as early as next year, Bloomberg News reported in January.

Buoyed by the growth in subscribers to its delivery service, sales at the startup rose to a record 7.15 trillion won ($5.9 billion) in 2019.

Read more: Coupang Grew Revenue 64% in Boost For SoftBank’s Startup Cred

(Updates with details on Asian market from the third paragraph)

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