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More South Korean unicorns eye overseas IPOs

(Courtesy of DoubleDown Interactive, Yanolja, Market Kurly)
(Courtesy of DoubleDown Interactive, Yanolja, Market Kurly)
Startups in South Korea appear to have set their eyes on stock markets overseas, in pursuit of bigger investments as well as greater recognition of their potential on the global stage.

Social casino game developer and publisher DoubleDown Interactive is the latest local unicorn seeking to be listed on the US’ tech-heavy Nasdaq bourse. It submitted an F-1 filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission last year, but tentatively postponed its initial public offering plans in July. But it will resume the process soon, according to parent company DoubleU Games on Tuesday.

“To carry our listing plan forward, we’re in talks with our IPO underwriters and representative law firms. We will decide when is the best time for a market debut after supplementing the prospectus and receiving the SEC’s approval,” the company said.

Accommodation booking platform operator Yanolja also made its listing plan official, but the specific offering size and where it should be listed have not yet been decided, the officials said.

Yanolja had previously set its sights on a market debut within this year, and picked local brokerage firms Mirae Asset Daewoo and Samsung Securities as its underwriters last year. At that time, the firm’s market value came to around 5 trillion won ($4.43 billion), but the valuation recently jumped to between 9 trillion and 10 trillion won in the over-the-counter market.

Followed by Coupang’s splash market debut on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month, local e-commerce grocer Market Kurly has decided to go public and is exploring whether to list at home or in the US stock market, saying “we are open to all options.”

Market Kurly’s chief, Sophie Kim, first disclosed her plans for an IPO during a senior executive meeting in February. Her decision was backed by the unusually ample liquidity in the global stock markets and the firm’s narrowing earnings deficit, the company said.

Local investment banking sources say Coupang’s NYSE listing has given high hopes to local unicorns, and that more startups valued at 1 trillion won or higher will take overseas listing into consideration to attract more investors.

“There has been no such case of a unicorn valued at some tens of trillions (of won) when going public in the local stock market. So the local startups’ market valuations are often evaluated conservatively,” said an investment banking official who wished to remain anonymous. “The Kosdaq market has often become a landmark destination, but since many of them are unsatisfied with market values, they will try to expand their presence in global markets.”

Another investment banking official said Coupang’s stock price could be a market variable for local companies’ overseas listing. The e-commerce giant’s price at its highest point on the day of its blockbuster NYSE debut hit $69 apiece on March 11 there, nearly double the $35 offering price. But it soon lost momentum and slid to $44.86 per share at Monday’s closing bell.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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