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Market winners and losers in 2021: Fintech soars while drugmakers suffer

Naver headquarters in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. (Naver)
Naver headquarters in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. (Naver)
In 2021, South Korea’s two biggest financial technology firms, Naver and Kakao, saw their market capitalization expand on-year, while drugmakers faced a dip in market value.

As of last week, Naver, the country’s largest internet portal, had seen a 36 percent jump in its market cap at 63 trillion won ($53 billion), while the market value for Kakao, which runs the country’s largest messenger app for smartphones, almost tripled at 115 trillion won.

The hike mainly came from KakaoBank and Kakao Pay, the two subsidiaries the tech giant took public this year in one of the country’s biggest initial public offerings that has put their valuations at 30 trillion won and 24 trillion won, respectively.

Naver and Kakao, which saw their share prices peak this year on the key benchmark Kospi, had previously competed to become the third-largest company in Korea by market cap, but their shares slid on fears over a regulatory crackdown.

Two week ago, the Financial Supervisory Service said it would work to prevent data monopoly by fintech firms, amid growing calls from financial services firms for tougher rules on internet companies trying to expand reach in the financial market.

Meanwhile, game companies and battery makers also saw their market value soar.

Gamemaker Wemade, which was valued at 646 billion won last year, is now worth 5 trillion won on the junior Kosdaq exchange after the company published games using nonfungible tokens -- a type of digital asset authenticated by blockchain -- amid growing interest in digital assets.

L&F, a parts manufacturer for lithium ion batteries that has a market value of 6 trillion won, made the top five on the Kosdaq this year. It placed 20th last year.

But local drugmakers like Celltrion saw a shrinking market value.

The country’s leading drugmaker with a market cap of 28 trillion won on the Kospi and Kosdaq combined lost almost 20 trillion won in market value over the year. Kosdaq peers like Seegene and HLB, once the third and fifth biggest drug makers by market cap, also saw their market value fall.

SK Biopharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Korea’s third largest chaebol SK Group, saw its shares plunge 40 percent on-year. Despite the dip, SK Group saw the biggest increase in its market capitalization among the four major chaebol groups, which include Hyundai Motor, Samsung Group and LG Group.

Hyundai Motor and Samsung Group saw an incremental jump in their market capitalization, but LG Group saw its market value shrink to 134 trillion won, coming in last among the four as LG Chem shares dived 14 percent on-year on General Motor’s electric car recall.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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