South Korean food delivery startup Woowa Bros lands $320 million investment

SEOUL (Reuters) - The operator of South Korea’s largest food delivery app has secured a $320 million investment from Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia Capital and GIC, it said on Thursday, in a deal that values the startup at about $2.6 billion.

FILE PHOTO: People eat fried chicken at a pub in Seoul, South Korea, October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

Woowa Brothers Corp, which owns the “Baedal Minjok” food delivery service, said the cash will help drive expansion to overseas markets, and the development of autonomous robots.

The investment was led by Hillhouse Capital, which had already invested 57 billion won ($50.7 million) in the firm in 2016, with equity participation by U.S.-based Sequoia Capital and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, Woowa Brothers said.

Launched in 2010, Baedal Minjok’s monthly orders grew from about 5 million in early 2015 to more than 20 million by July 2018, the company said.

Woowa Brothers also expanded to offer delivery from restaurants that did not previously deliver, and a service for providing food and supplies to restaurants.

Goldman Sachs invested 40 billion won ($35.6 million) in Woowa Brothers in 2014.

Hillhouse Capital is an investor in top Chinese technology firms including Tencent and Baidu, while Sequoia Capital was an early investor in global tech behemoths like Google Inc and Apple Inc.

Rigid regulations, strong labor unions and a risk-averse culture among South Korea’s giant family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, have hindered the growth of start-ups in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

But international investors have been drawn to companies making inroads in the market for fast delivery services in South Korea.

In November SoftBank’s Vision Fund said it was investing an additional $2 billion in South Korea’s top e-commerce firm Coupang.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Jan Harvey