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Coupang’s rumored IPO in March lifts stocks of partner firms

E-commerce platform operator Coupang’s same-day delivery service is known as Rocket Delivery.(Coupang)
E-commerce platform operator Coupang’s same-day delivery service is known as Rocket Delivery.(Coupang)
The recent news of e-commerce unicorn Coupang going public as early as March has boosted stocks of partner companies in South Korea on Tuesday.

Dongbang, a logistics firm that handles Coupang’s delivery services, saw its stock jump by a daily upper limit of 29.96 percent to reach 3,915 won ($3.56) in intraday trading on Tuesday. It also soared by the same percentage point a day earlier to close at 3,015 won.

Media content platform company KTH’s stock also jumped by the daily limit to 9,760 won in the morning, up from the closing price of 7,510 won a day earlier. It rose 24.54 percent on Monday.

Partnering with KTH, Coupang launched the subscription-based streaming service Coupang Play in December. Subscribers of the firm’s premium delivery service are given access to the streaming service, similar to the streaming business model of US ecommerce giant Amazon.

The two-day winning streak of the shares came upon the news that the e-commerce firm is now ready to be listed on the tech heavy Nasdaq Composite.

According to news reports on Monday, Coupang has met preliminary requirements for the stock market listing, led by investment bank Goldman Sachs, and the Korean company would be able to go public as early as March. The e-commerce firm was previously anticipated to go public in the second quarter this year, but the fast growth of the e-commerce business and contactless delivery services during the coronavirus pandemic since early last year have accelerated the initial public offering scheme, according to market watchers.

“Having received preliminary approval for the listing means the company has met most of the prerequisites for going public, including its financial status,” said Park Eun-kyung, analyst at local brokerage Samsung Securities. “Conducting the initial public offering in March or April is a possible timeline.”

The total payments made on the ecommerce platform and the firm’s food delivery platform Coupang Eats last year is estimated to reach 21.7 trillion won, up 41 percent from an estimate of 15.4 trillion won for 2019, according to Wise App, a market data tracker. The amount of payments differs from the company’s actual revenue as it excludes sales from business-to-business services while including surtax.

Separate market data forecasts that Coupang is expected to have earned 11 trillion won with an operating loss of 200 billion won last year. The anticipated revenue is up 55 percent on-year while the operating loss dropped by 70 percent. With the fast-rising revenue, the e-commerce company’s value will likely range from $25 billion to $30 billion, according the data.

“Although the market valuation depends on the company’s performance last year, the range between 20 trillion won to 30 trillion won is not unrealistic,” said Park of Samsung Securities.

The Seoul-headquartered company posted operating losses from 2017 to 2020 although its losses have reduced in recent years. After widening to 11.3 trillion won in 2018, the operating loss is thought to have decreased to 215 billion won last year.

“As we previously said, we will carry out the IPO when the time is right,” a Coupang official said.

Some market watchers in the investment sector said the listing of Coupang, which suffered losses for years, could mean a turnaround for the entire domestic ecommerce sector.

“Doubts over business sustainability in regards to the cash-bleeding Coupang have run rampant for years,” an official from the private equity fund market said. “A successful IPO will help the Korean ecommerce market earn trust from both domestic and global investors.”

News outlet Bloomberg previously reported that the Korean company, which will likely be valued at $30 billion or more, is expected to go public in the second quarter this year.

By Kim Young-won (wone0102@heraldcorp.com)
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