Korean unicorns backed by big global investors line up for US IPO

2021.04.27 16:05:15 | 2021.04.27 16:05:43

[Source: NYSE facebook]이미지 확대

[Source: NYSE facebook]

Wall Street debut has become a plausible option for Korea’s up-and-coming startups to scale up in a big way and go global at the same time following the spectacular New York Stock Exchange debut of Coupang.

Candidates with eyes on U.S. IPO are Kurly Inc., the operator of Korea’s leading online grocery store Market Kurly; Dunamu Inc., operator of Korea’s top cryptocurrency exchange Upbit; Kakao Entertainment, an affiliate of Korea’s dominant chat app Kakao Talk; Naver Webtoon, a Los Angeles-based web cartoon platform operator of internet giant Naver Corp; and hotel booking platform major Yanolja.

Viva Republica, operator of the country’s popular peer-to-peer money transfer app Toss, and online fashion retailer Musinsa, are also cited as eligible bidders by investment banks.

“Coupang’s NYSE IPO served as an event for verifying Korean unicorn’s competitiveness,” said Choi Yoo-joon, a Shinhan Investment analyst. The e-commerce company joined the NYSE in mid-May with IPO price of $35, putting its value at around $60 billion.

Before Coupang, nine Korean companies went public on stock markets in the U.S. but all except one – mobile game developer Gravity that joined Nasdaq in 2005, have delisted, mostly due to sluggish trading.

The situation, however, is different now compared to the past when the Korean companies recklessly headed to the U.S. said a market expert. Now, the Korean unicorns who are mulling for an IPO in the U.S. are well prepared from the start with big global investors on their back, added the expert.

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Viva Republica is backed by global venture capitalists including Kleiner Perkins and Altos Ventures. Kakao Entertainment has Hong Kong’s Anchor Equity Partners as a financial investor. Yanolja is invested by Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC.

Korean firms have been relative inactive in the U.S. stock markets compared to other Asian peers. Currently, a total of 273 Chinese companies are listed on the U.S. stock markets. That is equivalent to 6.4 percent of all publicly trading firms in China.

Given the stock market’s size, massive liquidity and other factors, heading abroad for IPO could serve as a good opportunity for Korean unicorns to grow bigger and stronger, said a private equity fund manager.

By Kang Woo-seok, Kang In-seon, Shin Yoo-kyung and Cho Jeehyun

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