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SBI Investment, Aju IB stocks soar on expectations of Yanolja's US listing

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Yanolja headquarters in southern Seoul / Yonhap

Yanolja headquarters in southern Seoul / Yonhap

Venture capital firms to reap major returns from Yanolja's growth
By Anna J. Park

The stock price of SBI Investment is surging on the news that Korea's leading travel platform Yanolja plans to debut on the U.S. stock market by as early as July.

According to the Korea Exchange, the venture capital investment firm's stock price soared by over 25 percent shortly after the opening of Monday's session, hitting its 52-week high. The rise eased during the later hours of the session, finishing at 1,008 won ($0.73), an 8.04 percent jump from the previous session.

The surge in SBI Investment's stock price was mainly attributed to the media report that broke on the previous trading day that Yanolja's listing on the U.S. stock market is imminent and could come as early as July.

A promotional image of the Yanolja app / Courtesy of Yanolja

A promotional image of the Yanolja app / Courtesy of Yanolja

Now that the travel platform's corporate value is estimated to range between about $7 billion to $9 billion, the venture capital firm is expected to reap a handsome return of up to dozens of times from its previous investment into Yanolja.

SBI Investment made two rounds of investments into Yanolja, totaling 16 billion won, through Series B funding in 2016 and Series C funding in 2018.

In 2016, the corporate value of the travel startup company was assessed at around 400 billion won. The valuation rose to some 700 billion won by 2018.

Yanolja subsequently received a massive investment of approximately $1.7 billion from SoftBank Vision Fund in 2021 at the corporate valuation of about 8 trillion won. It means the online travel platform company's market price skyrocketed by over 20 times in just five years. With the investment, SoftBank Vision Fund is currently the largest shareholder of Yanolja.

If Yanolja indeed achieves market watchers anticipated corporate value on the U.S. stock markets, SBI Investment as well as other venture capital firms that injected investment into Yanolja stand to be able to benefit significantly through the sale of their holding stakes.

Aju IB Investment, another venture capital firm that also invested 20 billion won in 2017, also saw its stock price rise on Monday's session, finishing at 3,310 won, a 4.09 percent rise from the previous session.

Founded in 2005, Yanolja has expanded beyond simply acting as a booking agent for travelers. It has now grown into one of the world's largest travel platforms by acquiring Go Global Travel, a global leading business-to-business travel solution provider, in 2023. The company also boasts the strengths of its high-growth cloud business, competing with industry giants like Airbnb and Expedia Group by offering services in the accommodation and leisure sectors.

Earlier this year, the travel company opened its 50th overseas branch in Manhattan, New York. In addition, the firm appointed Alexandre Ibrahim as its CFO, who has extensive industry experience, including working for the New York Stock Exchange and Endeavour Catalyst Fund. Yanolja tapped Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as lead managers for its initial public offering procedures on the U.S. stock markets.

Park Ji-won annajpark@koreatimes.co.kr


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