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Unicorn startup Kurly fizzles with IPO withdrawal

By Im Eun-byel

Published : Jan. 6, 2023 - 17:07

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Market Kurly (Kurly) Market Kurly (Kurly)

Once regarded among South Korea's most successful startups, Kurly, operator of fresh food delivery platform Market Kurly, is losing steam with signs of weakening investor appetite for the loss-making firm.

Kurly on Thursday officially called off its long-awaited market debut on the country's benchmark Kospi "for the time being."

"Considering the worsened investor sentiment amid the global recession, we have decided to postpone the listing on the Korea Exchange," the statement said, referring to the nation’s sole bourse operator.

"We will push for the listing again at the optimal time when Kurly can receive a fair valuation in the future,” it said.

With the postponement of the initial public offering, Kurly’s share price has been dropping on the over-the-counter platform.

According to the Seoul Exchange, which links buyers and sellers of privately held companies’ stocks, Kurly closed at 21,000 won ($16.50) on Thursday, recording a 8,500 won fall from the day before.

It could even possibly lose its unicorn status, referring here to a startup valued at over 1 trillion won.

Kurly was able to raise 250 billion won in pre-IPO funding in December 2021, receiving a valuation of 4 trillion won amid a boom in new listings. Some even viewed the startup as worth up to 7 trillion won.

Kurly had passed the final review session for the IPO in August last year. As the Korea Exchange mandates firms submit the listing application within six months after passing the review, it will have to go through the screening process again if it opts for another listing in the future.

Last year, Kurly recorded an operating loss of 217.7 billion won, a 87.2 percent increase from 116.3 billion won a year before.

Despite the losses, Kurly is working on diversifying its portfolio. It expanded its business by launching Beauty Kurly in November, featuring cosmetics products on its delivery platform.

It also expects to expand its early-morning delivery across Korea, with construction of distribution centers in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, and Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, to be completed in the first half of this year.

Currently, the platform’s early-morning delivery service is limited to the Greater Seoul area and the North and South Chungcheong provinces.

On the other hand, another online grocery delivery platform, Oasis Market, said it will push forward with its IPO plan. The startup passed preliminary approval for the IPO in December. If it proceeds as planned, Oasis Market would be the first early-morning delivery service platform to be listed on the local stock market.