The Korea Herald


Coupang shares hit 18-month high on membership fee hike

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : April 14, 2024 - 14:57

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Coupang delivery trucks in a parking lot in downtown Seoul (Newsis) Coupang delivery trucks in a parking lot in downtown Seoul (Newsis)

The stock price of New York-listed e-commerce giant Coupang surpassed $20 a share on Friday for the first time in 18 months, following the company's announcement it would raise membership fees by nearly 60 percent.

Coupang's stock price closed trading at $21.25 on Friday, marking an 11.49 percent increase from the previous day's closing price of $19.06. Its market capitalization recorded $38.1 billion.

The surge in the stock price coincided with the company's announcement earlier in the day it would raise membership fees from 4,990 won ($3.60) to 7,890 won. The membership includes free overnight delivery, access to its video streaming service and discounted offers for its food delivery application.

Coupang went public by listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 2021, with an initial offering price of $35. However, its stock price has experienced a continuous decline since then. After slipping below $10 in May 2022, it has struggled to rebound above the $20 mark.

Even after the company announced its first profitable year in 14 years since its foundation in February, the stock continued to trade at between $17 and $19.

Coupang is the top e-commerce platform in South Korea, with a 24.4 percent share of the market, according to the Fair Trade Commission. Its membership sucscribers reached over 14 million in 2023, steadily rising from 9 million in 2021 and 11 million in 2022.

With the increase in monthly fees, Coupang's annual profits from the paid membership service would increase from 838.8 billion won logged last year to 1.32 trillion won in 2024 -- if no users leave the membership.

On the other hand, Coupang’s decision to raise membership fees reflects its commitment to preparing for the competition with Chinese e-commerce platforms, particularly the big three of AliExpress, Temu and Shein, which have expanded their presence in South Korea recently.

According to market tracker WiseApp, in terms of the number of monthly users in March, AliExpress, owned by Alibaba, ranked second with approximately 8.87 million users, while Temu came third with 8.29 million users. AliExpress’ Korean user base grew fourfold over the two years.

Meanwhile, Coupang secured the top spot with 30.8 million users, but other domestic e-commerce platforms were outpaced by their Chinese rivals, with 11Street at 7.4 million users and Gmarket with 5.48 million.

As part of efforts to extend its lead over Chinese platforms, Coupang pledged last month to invest over 3 trillion won by 2026 to enhance its logistics capabilities. This includes expanding fulfillment centers, implementing automation technology and refining its delivery network.