NEW YORK (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang raised the price range of ts offering on Tuesday (March 9), signalling strong demand for its shares.
The start-up, which is backed by SoftBank Group, is now seeking to raise US$4.08 billion (S$5.48 billion) and is offering 120 million shares at US$32 to US$34 each, higher than its earlier range of US$27 and US$30 a share At the top end of the new range, the company would be valued at roughly US$58 billion.
The listing would be one of the biggest on record by an Asian company on a US exchange and the largest since the US$25 billion IPO by Alibaba Group Holding in 2014. It underscores unprecedented investor appetite for technology companies, which have seen sales skyrocket during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Seoul-based e-commerce firm was founded in 2010 by Harvard graduate Bom Suk Kim. It made a splash in South Korea with its “Rocket Delivery” service that promised delivery within 24 hours, shaking family-owned retail conglomerates including Shinsegae and Lotte.
Coupang has aggressively expanded its delivery and logistics operations, putting 70 per cent of the country’s population within a seven-mile radius of its distribution centres, according to the filing. Coupang has also invested in new business lines like food delivery and streaming services.
The company has seen revenue grow every quarter since the start of 2018, while its loss has narrowed annually, its filing showed.
Coupang, also viewed as a rival to Amazon.com, received US$1 billion in funding from SoftBank in 2015 and US$2 billion from its Vision Fund in 2018.
SoftBank, the biggest shareholder in Coupang, stands to reap an enormous windfall when Coupang goes public, giving founder Masayoshi Son further evidence his often-criticised start-up bets are paying off.
The Japanese company owns about 35 per cent of the start-up and could report an unrealised gain of as much as US$16 billion after Coupang raised the target price range for its initial public offering. That would be the SoftBank Vision Fund’s largest-ever startup profit booked in a single quarter since it began reporting results in 2017.
Mr Son has come under heavy criticism for missteps in backing fledgling companies, including WeWork and more recently Greensill Capital. But the South Korean start-up adds to a string of hits that have compensated for those losses and pushed his Vision Fund to profit records in the last two quarters. If Coupang succeeds in its public debut, SoftBank’s windfall could exceed the US$11 billion it reported from DoorDash’s December IPO.
“This is a decent-size win for Masa and, in some way, it validates his style of going all in to score big,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore. “Their backing of Greensill seems like a rounding error by comparison.”
“Coupang is not likely to be just another quick-money exit for SoftBank,” said Anthea Lai, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Given its position in the South Korean market and how well it sits in SoftBank’s overall portfolio, it’s an investment they could hold on to for a while.”
Coupang shares are scheduled to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “CPNG” on Thursday.
Goldman Sachs, Allen & Co, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and HSBC are the lead underwriters for the offering.
Singapore Press Holdings, which publishes The Straits Times, has a 0.1 per cent indirect stake in Coupang, having invested US$3.9 million in the start-up in 2014, SPH said last month. It also said the potential IPO is not expected to affect its recurring financial performance.