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EBay said to buy big stake in S. Korea's Gmarket

EBAY Inc will purchase a substantial stake in the operator of a leading South Korean online marketplace, a news report said yesterday.

Online newspaper edaily reported that eBay will buy a 34.21-percent stake in Gmarket Inc from Interpark Corp and its chairman Lee Ki-hyong for US$24 a share, or US$413 million.

Edaily, which quoted an unnamed industry source in mergers and acquisitions, said the deal was clinched last week during a visit to South Korea by eBay Chief Executive John Donahoe.

The deal would make eBay the largest shareholder in Gmarket, the report said.

An investor relations official at online shopping mall Interpark, who refused to give her name, said, however, that there was "no assurance" of a deal, a position confirmed by company spokeswoman Lee Eun-young.

Paul Lee, general counsel for Gmarket, said that the company was "not in a position to comment."

Interpark shares rose 2.9 percent to close yesterday at 6,650 won (US$5.05) after rising as much as 11.5 percent earlier. Gmarket is unlisted.

San Jose, California-based eBay said in September that it had preliminary conditional approval from South Korean regulators for its potential purchase of a stake in Gmarket. The online auction site had announced in August that it was in talks with Interpark and its chairman.

If eBay does buy the stake, it would be its latest venture into the online auction market outside the United States.



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