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Market jitters dampen appetite for e-commerce IPOs

Stock debuts of SSG.com, Market Kurly may face further delays amid rising uncertainties

(123rf)
(123rf)
After the blockbuster stock debut of Coupang last year, expectations had been growing for upcoming listings of the nation’s popular e-commerce platforms like SSG.com and Market Kurly until early this year.

But uncertainties surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its economic impact are prompting the firms to put their plans to go public on ice.

SSG.com, the digital shopping platform owned by retail giant Shinsegae Group, is one of the hottest market debuts planned this year.

With an estimated market capitalization of 10 trillion won ($8.1 billion), SSG.com is highly likely to seek a merger with eBay Korea, which Shinsegae acquired for 3.4 trillion won last year.

Their combined transaction volume is expected to surge to some 25 trillion won, posing a direct threat to market leader Naver.

But the firm is still gauging the timing for its long-waited initial public offering amid the bearish market hit hard by the current geopolitical unrest.

“There’s no need to hurry the IPO process when the financial market is bashed with rate hikes and the Russia-Ukraine crisis. We can wait for a better time to go public,” an SSG.com official said.

Online grocery delivery platform Market Kurly, whose valuation is expected to reach 4 to 5 trillion won, had planned to make a stock debut by June. But speculation is growing after it failed to submit a regulatory application by the Feb. 28 deadline.

“After losing Coupang to the US stock market, the Korea Exchange had introduced a new regulation to allow fast-growing unicorn companies with over 1 trillion won of corporate value -- such as Market Kurly -- to get listed on the main bourse Kospi,” said an industry source who wished to stay anonymous.

“But the stock market has become highly volatile since the end of last year, so the bourse operator seemed to have required the firm to come up with more detailed plans to reduce its operating loss.”

Since its launch in 2015, Market Kurly’s culmulative operating loss is estimated at about 270 billion won as of 2020.

A Market Kurly official declined to comment on the delayed IPO, citing market uncertainties.

Oasis, a fast-growing grocery shopping platform with an estimated market value of 1-2 trillion won, is no different.

“Our goal is to get listed by the end of this year, but given the market situation, it could be postponed to next year,” an Oasis official said. “We’ll wait and see how Market Kurly’s IPO unfolds.”

But experts say the “moment” might have passed for e-commerce platforms to receive a high market valuation like Coupang.

“For an IPO, timing is everything. SSG.com, Market Kurly and Oasis seemed to have lost their momentum to enjoy high market value,” said Seo Yong-gu, a professor at Sookmyung Women’s University.

“Since COVID-19 is expected to become an endemic disease, delayed consumption is likely to spill over to offline activities like traveling and shopping, prompting e-commerce platforms to see a slowdown in sales.”

Seo added the upcoming shift in the consumption trend may have affected SoftBank’s recent decision to dump its shares worth 1.2 trillion won in Coupang, one of the market leaders.

According to data from the Korea Online Shopping Association, online sales are expected to grow 9 to 13 percent this year, compared to an average of around 20 percent in recent years.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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