Bom Kim, founder and chief executive officer of Coupang.
South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang plans to raise as much as $3.6 billion from an initial public offering in New York, hitting two milestones and boosting its name recognition.
At $3.6 billion, Coupang’s IPO would be the largest U.S. listing by a foreign company since Alibaba’s $25 billion debut in 2014 and the fourth-largest IPO ever in the U.S. by an Asian company, according to data provider Dealogic. Coupang, dubbed the Amazon of South Korea, stands to reach a valuation of up to $51 billion.
The 42-year-old billionaire founder Bom Kim, a Harvard Business School dropout who has been leading the company since 2010, spearheaded Coupang’s growth in South Korea by cutting prices and speeding up deliveries, including same-day service. The company delivers food and offers video streaming as well. South Korea’s e-commerce market was the world’s sixth largest in 2019 with revenues of $61 billion, analytics website eCommerceDB says. Kim told Forbes in a 2018 interview that Coupang wants to grow “exponentially”.
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The IPO would give Coupang capital to make acquisitions and strategic investments, according to its prospectus, though no such plans are currently in the works. Besides South Korea, Coupang has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Seattle and Singapore.
Coupang has not made it clear whether it intends to expand further outside South Korea, but to do so, there would require a network of partners in target countries, says Sandy Shen, a digital commerce research director based in Shanghai at Gartner. The partners would operate and promote Coupang’s services in line with local consumer trends, Shen says, adding that Coupang excelled in South Korea by going all-out and staying free of tough competition from overseas e-commerce firms.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has done well taking that route, Shen notes, and U.S. investors welcomed its IPO because the Hangzhou-based giant founded by billionaire Jack Ma had a name before it listed in New York. “The main thing is, the IPO will raise Coupang’s name recognition, that’s definite,” Shen says.
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