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Popular Korean hotel app acquires Southeast Asian startup Zen Rooms

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A Southeast Asian startup has been acquired by the creator of a leading hotel app in South Korea to further tap into the riches that is the booming Southeast Asian travel industry.

Yanolja Co., which offers online booking for 20,000 lodgings in South Korea, will invest $15 million in Singapore-based Zen Rooms in return for a controlling stake, the Seoul-based company said in a statement. Zen operates in several countries including Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, offering a digital booking platform for budget hotels.

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s fastest-growing regions with a nascent digital market fueled by startups like Grab and Tokopedia. Yanolja, valued at more than 700 billion won ($622 million), sees the region as pivotal to its overseas expansion, which includes an alliance unveiled in March with Rakuten Inc. to enter Japan’s vacation rental business.

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