Sirgoo Lee, chief executive of the South Korean mobile messaging company Kakao, chuckles when asked about Facebook’s acquisition of rival WhatsApp for $19bn. “All I can say is that’s a lot of money,” he says.
While it has a strong presence in India and Hong Kong, WhatsApp is a marginal player in many parts of Asia writes Simon Mundy. Kakao, Japan-based LINE and China-headquartered WeChat dominate mobile messaging in their respective home territories, and are fighting for control of the market in southeast Asia. The Japanese internet company Rakuten, meanwhile, last month spent $900m on Viber, an Israeli company that provides similar free calling and messaging services.