EBay looking to sell South Korean unit: report

FILE PHOTO: The eBay logo is pictured on a phone screen in this photo illustration in New York, U.S., July 23, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Illustration

SEOUL (Reuters) - EBay Inc EBAY.O is looking to sell its South Korean unit, which includes Gmarket, one of the largest online marketplaces in the country, in a deal that could fetch nearly $5 billion, a Seoul-based newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Korea Economic Daily, citing an unnamed industry official, reported that eBay has decided to sell 100 percent of its stake in eBay Korea.

Possible buyers include other South Korean retail giants such as Lotte Shopping 023530.KS, Shinsegae 004170.KS, and Hyundai Department Store Group, as well as private equity funds like MBK, the country's largest private equity firm, the newspaper reported.

EBay did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and MBK representatives were not available for comment outside business hours.

EBay bought Gmarket in 2009 for up to $1.2 billion, and combined it with its South Korean unit, Internet Auction Co.

At the time, the combined companies accounted for 87% of the country’s online consumer-to-consumer market and more than 30% of the Web shopping mall market, the Korean antitrust agency said.

But Gmarket has faced new competitors, including Softbank-backed 9434.T startup Coupang, which was founded in 2010 and has the largest e-commerce market share, according to the South Korea B2C E-Commerce Market 2019 report.

Reporting by Josh Smith, editing by Louise Heavens