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Northeast Asia

Kakaobank prepares for IPO scrutiny

Kakaobank did not exist four years ago. Now, it is an integral part of Korea’s banking sector. The next big step for the digital dynamo is its $3 billion IPO, slated for late 2021.

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Kakaobank’s runaway success is the stuff of dreams – although for Korea’s big but slow-growing traditional lenders, it perhaps has the makings of a nightmare.

The Seoul-based digital lender’s story is already well known, but it has gained such scale so fast, it is hard to believe it only opened for business in July 2017. That rapid growth story is soon to become a public one. The company is planning to raise up to $3 billion in a domestic IPO.

It will be a landmark deal for Korea’s equity market, though other domestic IPOs may well be larger.

Investment bankers in Seoul are preparing for a slew of big-ticket initial stock offerings, including deals from battery-maker LG Energy Solutions, gaming firm Krafton and vaccine developer SK Bioscience.

But none of these sales will be as keenly watched as kakaobank’s, given it is such a successful household name.

The IPO is currently in its very early stages, say bankers with direct knowledge.

“We are working on responses to the company’s requests,” says one equity capital markets banker.

We sometimes get calls from incumbent banks saying: ‘What is your secret?’
Suyoung Lee, kakaobank
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Another says kakaobank aims to raise between $2 billion and $3 billion from the sale of new shares, which would value the digital lender at more than $10 billion.


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