South Korea's Kakao Bank IPO to raise $2.2 billion after pricing at top of range

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean digital bank Kakao Bank Corp will raise $2.2 billion in its initial public offering (IPO), the company said in a filing on Thursday.

The shares were priced at 39,000 won each, the top of the range announced in a regulatory filing this month, to raise about 2.6 trillion won ($2.22 billion).

The listing, expected in August, will be the country’s biggest since game company Netmarble raised 2.7 trillion won in its 2017 IPO, overtaking this year’s 2.2-trillion-won listing of battery material maker SK IE Technology Co Ltd.

The 65.5 million shares on offer are all newly issued.

Demand was heavy. A total of 1,667 domestic and foreign institutional investors placed bids totalling 2,585 trillion won, the largest amount of institutional bids ever for a South Korean IPO.

The pricing values Kakao Bank at 18.5 trillion won, which nears valuations of the largest South Korean banking groups’ holding companies such as KB Financial Group and Shinhan Financial Group, worth 21.5 trillion won and 19.9 trillion won on Thursday.

Kakao Bank, one of two digital banks, ranks No. 1 among South Korea’s financial apps with 13.35 million monthly active users (MAUs), while holding 14th place among all the nation’s apps, the company said.

Having become profitable in 2019 after less than two years in operation, it reported net profit of 113.6 billion won in 2020, an eight-fold increase from 13.7 billion the previous year, it said.

Last year, interest income accounted for 75% of its operating income, while 19% came from non-interest income, and 6% from “platform profits” such as connecting users to other financial firms’ services and advertisements.

The bank plans to use the funds to grow in these areas, including offering mortgages, which are South Korea’s most common type of loan, by mobile telephone early next year at the latest, Chief Executive Daniel Yun told reporters.

($1=1,149 won)

Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Jason Neely, Clarence Fernandez and Kim Coghill