South Korean retail investors bid over $50 billion to win coveted shares in BTS label

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean retail investors ponied up over $50 billion as they sought to lay their hands on shares in Big Hit Entertainment, the management label of K-pop sensation BTS - more than 600 times the value of shares on offer.

The combined 58.4 trillion won ($50.3 billion) in orders fell just shy of a record 58.55 trillion won in bids for the retail portion of Kakao Games’ listing in September.

Most of the bids for Big Hit’s stock, priced at 135,000 won per share, came late on the second of two days of orders from individual investors.

“I waited until 2 p.m. this afternoon to subscribe because I wanted to choose the arranger with less competition for bidding,” said Oh Sang-min, a 32-year old retail worker who placed bids worth 100 million won after taking out a loan.

He was told by his money manager that he would be able to pick up just two shares.

There has been some concern that funds pouring in from retail investors could affect short-term money markets as the funds would be at brokerages’ disposal for three days before investors who are not allocated shares get their money back.

But the total amount of retail bids did not match some heady forecasts of 100 trillion won, and market sources said on Tuesday they were monitoring the situation but were not overly concerned about the impact.

Some analysts said talk that the band’s members may have to complete mandatory military service could have prevented retail demand from reaching such lofty heights.

By law, all able-bodied men in South Korea aged between 18 and 28 must serve in the military for roughly two years as part of the country’s defences against North Korea.

But there have also been growing calls for BTS members to be granted alternatives or delays to the service, with some lawmakers and fans arguing they are doing plenty for their country without wearing a soldier’s uniform.

The band, supported by a massive global fan base, has just notched up the first No.1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart by a South Korean group with the song “Dynamite”.

Offering about 20% of the company in its IPO, Big Hit Entertainment, led by CEO Bang Si-hyuk, has raised some 962.6 billion won ($830 million). In the institutional portion of the offer, investors expressed interest in more than 1,000 times the number of shares on offer.

The label is due to make its market debut on Oct. 15.

Reporting by Cynthia Kim; Editing by Edwina Gibbs