By Hyunjoo Jin
SEOUL, Jan 26 (Reuters) - South Korea's retailers Shinsegae and E-Mart said they were set to gain $940 million from private equity firms, hoping to capitalise on a surge in online grocery shopping and other e-commerce in one of the world's most wired countries.
With the funding from Affinity Equity Partners and BRV Capital Management, both Asia-based private equity funds, department store operator Shinsegae and supermarket affiliate E-Mart laid out ambitions to topple eBay as the country's leading e-commerce retailer.
"E-Mart is unrivaled in the online grocery market thanks to its quick delivery service," said Seo Jung-yeon, an analyst at Shinyoung Investment.
Shares in both firms soared to six-year highs on the preliminary deal with E-Mart jumping 15 percent to see its market capitalisation hit $7.7 billion while Shinsegae gained 10 percent to be valued at $3.2 billion.
The deal would be the largest private equity transaction in South Korea since 2015.
Investment into online grocery services are picking up steam, with Amazon.com Inc buying Whole Foods Market Inc for $13.7 billion last year.
This week alone in Asia, Wal-Mart Stores Inc said it has struck a partnership with Rakuten Inc to launch an online grocery delivery service in Japan. While Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and U.S. grocer Kroger Co have had early discussions on working together, a source familiar with the matter said.
Online grocers in South Korea have an advantage over competitors in other countries as about half of the country's population resides in Seoul and its surrounding areas, Hana Investment Additional reporting by Elaine Tan; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)