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Coupang posts record sales, but also higher operating losses

Coupang’s headquarters in Jamsil, Seoul (Coupang)
Coupang’s headquarters in Jamsil, Seoul (Coupang)

South Korea’s e-commerce giant Coupang said Thursday that it posted $18.4 billion (22.1 trillion won) in sales last year, a record not just for the company, but also for a local e-commerce operator.

The figure jumped 54 percent from a year ago. In the fourth quarter alone, its sales soared to $5 billion.

Coupang said its record has surpassed the sales of the country’ top retailer Shinsegae and its subsidiaries -– Emart, SSG.com, eBay Korea, and G Market -– whose sales reached a combined 18 trillion won last year.

But operating losses also surged to a record high. Its net loss almost doubled to some $1.5 billion last year.

The e-commerce giant has seen a wider loss as it continued to aggressively spend on building additional distributional centers, according to a report from Bloomberg. Coupang spent more than one trillion won last year on distribution centers, it said.

Coupang currently owns more than 100 distribution centers in 30 districts, industry sources said.

Also, the company said costs rose last year due to recruitment and sanitizing process to tackle with the new spread of coronavirus pandemic, the report added.

The number of Wow members, its paid membership for next-day delivery, has exceeded 9 million subscribers. The number of active customers also increased 20.8 percent to 17.9 million people from a year ago. 

“We’ve seen improvements (in performance) and we don’t think at this moment this is a structural or permanent constraint,” Coupang‘s founder Kim Bom said during a conference call on the same day. ”We expect to grow at a rapid pace as we have in the last several years.“

After Coupang disclosed the earnings report, its stock closed at $25.41 on Wednesday in US time, down 0.2 percent from the preceding trading day, and down 27.4 percent from its public offering price.

Backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group, Coupang went public in New York last year. On the first day of trading, the firm raised $88.6 billion, recording the largest US listing of an Asian company since Alibaba in 2014.

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