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Watchdog OKs Gmarket-Auction merger

The Fair Trade Commission on Tuesday gave the green light to the merger of the nation’s two biggest online retailers operating under EBay Inc., ruling that the combination would not hinder the industry’s level of competition.

The watchdog’s approval of the Gmarket-Auction merger came after their parent EBay had applied for the deal in March.

After studying the deal for three months, the FTC said that their combined market share would no longer be a threat to their competitors since the two already control more than 72 percent of online retail here.

“There are no concerns that the merger would limit competition. We have decided to allow their businesses to consolidate without any preconditions,” the FTC said in a statement. It said that the agency didn’t see much possibility for a further increase of their market dominance as the two already have subsidiary relations.

The antitrust watchdog had delayed the approval, concerned that the combined entity would be a threat to smaller competitors such as Interpark Inc, 11th Street and GS E-store. EBay, the California-based operator of the world’s largest online market place, acquired Gmarket for $1.2 billion in 2009.

Competition has been fierce in online markets in Korea, the world’s most wired country. The competition is poised to be fiercer as the nation’s top Internet portal operator NHN is set to start an online auction business.

According to the Yonhap news agency, the size of the domestic open market last year was estimated at 11.8 trillion won ($11.1 billion), up from 10 trillion won a year earlier.

By Cynthia J. Kim (cynthiak@heraldcorp.com)
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