By Anna J. Park
Korea's IPO market has continued to log substantial growth, as companies that were listed last year saw a 35 percent jump in their capital raised through public offerings.
Over the past few years, about 70 to 80 companies were listed every year on the benchmark KOSPI or tech-heavy KOSDAQ markets, and 2021 is unlikely to be an exception. While some of the year's biggest IPO candidates like SK Bioscience, Krafton and LG Energy Solution have been the focus of media attention, smaller cap companies with exceptional skills and talents are also preparing for their imminent stock market debuts.
Only two weeks into this year more than a dozen companies have already begun or will soon begin the final stages of their IPO procedures in January, such as price discovery through book building and subscription registrations for institutional and retail investors, aiming to be listed in late January or early February.
Leading fintech company Finger goes public in late January
"Finger" is one of the companies awaiting its upcoming debut on the KOSDAQ market slated for Jan. 29. The company's name is a combination of the words "finance" and "manager," showing the firm's vision of becoming a leading fintech company.
Founded nearly 20 years ago as one of the first fintech companies in Korea, Finger is a pioneer in providing platforms for major financial groups' mobile banking applications. The company launched the nation's first smartphone banking app with Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) back in the early 2010s.
With the company's own original and exceptional technologies in the sector, the firm has maintained a strong partnership with most major commercial and state-run banks in Korea, such as Shinhan, Woori, Hana, NH Nonghyup and IBK, as these financial giants have been outsourcing the building of some of their mobile banking application platforms to the fintech company.
The fintech firm also provides a range of other mobile financing tools, such as blockchain solutions or internet-only banking across borders, as they collaborate with T-Money Pay, Kakao Bank and Line Bank in Taiwan, to name just a few. As of 2019, the firm logged around 60 billion won ($54.6 million) in annual revenue with an operating profit of 4.68 billion won.
"In the end, Finger is a B2C (business to consumer) fintech company that brings digital financial innovations to consumers," the firm's CEO Park Min-soo said during a press conference held earlier this week in Yeouido, which is home to the financial district of Seoul. "The company aims to enhance its corporate brand awareness through the KOSDAQ listing, as it continues to grow into a global fintech provider that brings innovative financial services to the market," he explained.
The government is continuing to pursue financial innovation projects like the MyData business plan ― which allows licensed business operators to compile a customer's financial information with a convenient application programming interface (API) at the customer's request ― while also aiming to accelerate the country's innovations in digital banking and finance sectors. And Finger hopes to lead the market with its strong corporate networks and fintech expertise built over the past 20 years.
Its offering price band is expected to be determined between 13,000 won ($11.8) to 15,000 won, with its market cap estimated at around 130 billion won by the end of the year. Subscription for stock allotment for retail investors will be held for two days on Jan. 21 to 22 at Daishin Securities.
Global component manufacturer SoluM eyes KOSPI debut in early February
Electronic component maker SoluM is also preparing for its public offering at the country's main stock market in early February.
The firm ― split off from Samsung Electro-Mechanics back in 2015 ― has global competitiveness in manufacturing high-end power modules for TVs and smartphones, tuners and electronic shelf labels (ESLs), as it possesses various cutting-edge and proprietary technologies in the area.
In particular, the firm's ESL business has become one of the world's top three sellers by posting the fastest revenue growth rate. Its customers include major retailers ranging from Lotte Mart and Homeplus here, Loblaws in Canada, Lowe's in the U.S., as well as Rewe and Edeka in Germany.
What is particularly promising about the firm is not just its solid average annual growth of 29 percent from 2017 to 2019, but the proportion of the company's new business that continues to grow, increasing from around 10 percent in 2017 to 56 percent in the third of quarter of 2020. During the first three quarters of last year, the firm posted 812 billion won ($730 million) in revenue with an operating profit of 45.7 billion won.
"The company has recently been displaying rapid revenue growth. The firm plans to maintain the top leading position in the global ESL market in the next three years," CEO Jun Sung-ho said during a press conference on Wednesday, adding that the firm is expected to see around a 250 percent year-on-year increase in its ESL market revenue in 2021.
"The firm's new business sectors, including ESL, solar power, lighting and IoT (Internet of Things), are continuing to lead companywide growth in addition to its traditional strength areas of power board modules for electronics. As the company possesses a gamut of technologies ranging from electronics software, communications, design and platforms, we will continue to add lucrative new portfolios," the CEO said. About two thirds of the firm's employees are R&D staff.
SoluM plans to offer 6.4 million shares, with its initial offering price band set between 13,700 won to 15,500 won. SoluM is slated to have its first day on the main KOSPI on Feb. 2, while local securities firms will receive registrations for stock allotment from retail investors for two days from Jan. 21 to 22. Experts estimate a minimum of 87.7 billion won to be raised with its corporate value estimated at around 582.4 billion won or 637 billion won.