Coupang to join chaebol watch list, but American CEO can avoid scrutiny

2021.04.07 11:42:43 | 2021.04.07 13:29:32

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E-commerce giant Coupang Inc. which has leapfrogged to one of the largest Korean companies in terms of market value upon joining the New York Stock Exchange will officially be listed as a “business conglomerate” under Korean law subject to antitrust scrutiny.

The Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) is expected to include Coupang on the list of large conglomerates as its asset value as of the end of 2020 surpassed 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) due to the land price hike of its logistics center site, according to the industry and government sources on Tuesday.

According to its documental fling with the U.S. Securities and Commission (SEC) ahead of its initial public offering (IPO), its assets that stood at 3.06 trillion won ($2.7 billion) in 2019 increased to $5.07 billion in 2020.

Under the nation’s antitrust rules, companies whose assets exceed 5 trillion won fall under the category of conglomerates subject to strict regulations on financial and business trades by owners and their family members and mandatory disclosures in inter-affiliate transactions.

But unlike others in the category, Coupang founder and chairman Kim Bom-suk can avoid accountability for any violations or scrutiny for his personal financial deals since the American citizen won’t go down as the business representative.

Since FTC does not have a provision for entitling a foreigner to an owner status of a local company, Coupang could go down as “ownerless” corporation.

Out of total 64 large corporations, only nine including KT and Posco, which were state-run entities in the past, are named ownerless corporations due to lack of a single large shareholder.

By Baek Sang-kyung and Choi Mira

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