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July 16, 2024

Naver Webtoon eyes $4b Nasdaq listing

PUBLISHED : June 02, 2024 - 16:39

UPDATED : June 02, 2024 - 16:39

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Naver Webtoon has kicked off the Nasdaq listing process, aiming to raise as much as $500 million through the initial public offering. (Naver Webtoon)

Naver Webtoon, also known as Webtoon Entertainment in the US, has kicked off the initial public offering process, as it filed a registration statement with the US Securities Exchange Commission for listing on the Nasdaq market.

Despite the unsettled atmosphere within Naver due to recent controversies surrounding its ownership of Line, the messaging app popular in Japan, the webtoon unit aims to complete its Nasdaq stock listing no later this year.

Webtoon Entertainment submitted the statement on Friday with the stock code “WBTN.” The underwriters for the listing are Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Evercore Inc., the Los Angeles-based company’s filing showed on Sunday.

The issuance size and offering price have not yet been disclosed, but Bloomberg estimated that the webtoon firm could seek to raise as much as $500 million at a valuation of up to $4 billion.

Valuations suggested by local analysts have varied widely, ranging between 5 trillion won ($3.62 billion) and 9 trillion won, considering variables such as the price-to-sales ratio and Naver’s paid-in capital increase.

The company has about 170 million monthly active users in more than 150 countries. It logged a net loss of $145 million on revenue of $1.28 billion last year with a profit of $11.7 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Webtoon Entertainment is a subsidiary of Naver, which was established to expand Naver Webtoon's global presence, providing webtoon services in many regions, including key business areas in Japan and the US, as well as Southeast Asia and Europe.

Naver holds a 71.2 percent stake in the webtoon company, making it the largest shareholder, while Tokyo-based LY Corp., the operator of messaging app Line, owns a 28.7 percent stake.

In the registration statement, Webtoon Entertainment stated potential risks related to its major shareholders, highlighting the possibility of future conflicts between the two entities.

Regarding the IPO plan, a Naver Webtoon official in Seoul declined to provide further details. Meanwhile, some market experts have expressed concerns about the lingering LY Corp. crisis casting a cloud on the firm’s listing push.

“Webtoon Entertainment's initial plan was going public this month but the plan seems to have been delayed. We have to wait and see, but its market debut can be postponed to even next year, depending on the Line stake sales,” a local brokerage analyst, who asked for anonymity, told The Korea Herald.

In a letter included in the recent securities registration statement, CEO Kim Jun-koo recalled two decades ago when he first started Naver Webtoon as a side project while working as a search engineer at Naver. He said he wanted to share stories, empower creators and build a community.

Kim further stated that the company's goal is to discover and develop the most successful intellectual property franchises via Naver Webtoon over the next decade. Acknowledging the crucial role of fans, creators and employees, he emphasized that without their contributions, today's achievements would not have been possible.

"The upcoming initial public offering represents the pinnacle of our efforts from the past 20 years and marks a new beginning in various aspects," he said.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)

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