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K-pop boom drives South Korea’s entertainment listings to record high

South Korea’s music agencies are rushing to go public to capitalise on rising global demand for K-pop that has pushed entertainment sector listings in the country to a record high.

Funds raised by entertainment listings in Seoul this year have hit a record $3.8bn, Dealogic data show, while shares in the country’s leading music agencies have hit all-time highs as artists resume live concerts and other events.

The global popularity of K-pop stars including seven-member boy band BTS and girl group Blackpink has prompted smaller agencies to flock to the market.

RBW, the music label behind girl group Mamamoo, is expected to list on Monday, after raising Won26.8bn ($22.5m) in its initial public offering. The IPO price was set at the top end of the range, with the offering oversubscribed more than 3,700 times.

“The IPO success vindicates the importance of music IPs and our company’s growth prospects,” RBW’s president Kim Jin-woo told the Financial Times. “We will continue to make major killer content for the global market.”

RBW plans to use the IPO proceeds to accelerate its global expansion by acquiring more music labels and IPs and sign on more artists across Asia, said Kim.

Column chart of Funds raised ($bn) showing South Korean entertainment IPOs bring in record funds in 2021

The company’s listing comes after K-pop fan communication platform operator DearU went public earlier in November. DearU, backed by both SM and JYP Entertainment, raised Won85.8bn in its IPO, with the listing attracting huge interest from both institutional and retail investors.

Foreign investors from about 20 institutions including Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, JPMorgan Chase, Fidelity and Allianz attended DearU’s investor relations session for the IPO.

The attention for the small South Korean company was unusual, with most foreign investors traditionally focused on IPOs of big Korean conglomerates. More than 100 companies have raised a combined Won20tn through IPOs so far this year, according to Korea Exchange.

“Investors are looking for a new target in this hot sector as they are keen to ride on the Korea wave,” said Choi Joon-chul, chief executive of VIP Research and Management in Seoul. “DearU is the best example of the industry’s new business model, using the K-pop fandom.”

DearU’s stock price has risen more than 240 per cent from its IPO price to Won89,400. The company runs a subscription-based messaging platform and has plans to launch a platform that would allow stars and fans to interact in virtual reality.

DearU at present operates a platform called “DearU bubble”, through which K-pop fans can interact with their favourite stars using messages, photos and videos. The company said the platform boasts 236 artists and more than 800,000 subscribers.

Investment bankers expect more K-pop-related companies to go public in the coming months following the success of Hybe, the label behind BTS, led by music IP trading platform Music Cow, which is said to be preparing for an IPO as early as next year.

“Valuations are quite high, reflecting their future growth potential. It remains to be seen whether they can live up to the high expectations,” said Kim Joong-kon, head of equity capital markets at NH Securities.

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