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Kakao’s spinoff IPOs losing momentum

An office at Kakao Pay. (Kakao Pay)
An office at Kakao Pay. (Kakao Pay)
Kakao, one of South Korea’s two largest internet giants along with Naver, is seen as holding back its plans to float shares of key subsidiaries in listings, amid looming market disappointment over controversial sell-offs by executives.

Earlier this month, CEOs of Kakao Pay and KakaoBank were accused of driving down stock prices with sell-offs that critics say should not have taken place right after their listings when their shares ran high. This prompted regulators to vow greater protection for minority shareholders crying foul over share dilution.

In response, Kakao named a new CEO to lead the group, in what many see as efforts to rehabilitate the firm’s image as it seeks to take more subsidiaries public this year. The chief of Kakao Pay had offered to resign from the nomination to head the group.

“There is a growing doubt over the plans to finalize listings this year. I don’t think they can stick to the original plan. Changes will be made in light of the recent events,” a source with knowledge of the matter said.

Kakao is eyeing initial public offerings for Kakao Entertainment and Kakao Mobility this year, but the tech giant has not yet made public the underwriters, a process that signals an imminent market debut.

“Whatever the holdup may be, I certainly see the IPOs will take place this year as the group had promised,” a second source said, adding the process will pick up speed once the group sees the public perception improving.

Kakao has recently put in new rules that prevent executives from offloading shares of the company they oversee for up to two years after the firm has gone public.

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