Kakao’s Kim surpasses Samsung heir to become South Korea’s richest man | Business and Economic News
Brian Kim, the founder of South Korean communications giant Kakao Corp., has increased his wealth by more than $6 billion this year, putting him on the top of the country’s wealth rankings.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Kakao’s stock price has risen by 91% in 2021 alone, and Kim is now worth $13.4 billion. The net worth of Lee Jae-yong, South Korea’s second-richest man and heir to Samsung, is US$12.1 billion.
This is an example of how self-made tech entrepreneurs made South Korea’s richest list, surpassing the family members of the corporate group that controlled the country for decades. It also shows the power of initial public offerings: Kakao’s stock has been rising as its subsidiaries sell or plan to sell shares.
“Before Kakao’s key divisions went public, people’s expectations had been established,” said Hyunyong Kim, an analyst at Hyundai Motor Securities in Seoul. “Kakao’s strategy is to rapidly expand its business by actively attracting investment. IPO is the smoothest and most reliable way.”
Kakao confirmed the value of Kim’s holdings, excluding the shares he pledged as collateral.
KakaoBank Corp., an online lending company in which Kakao holds a 32% stake, will go public next month. After pricing is at the top of the market range, the company will raise 2.6 trillion won (US$2.3 billion).
Previously, the gaming division Kakao Games Corp. raised 384 billion won in its September IPO.
Kakao Pay Corp., the country’s largest online payment service company, was originally scheduled to go public on August 12, but the listing was postponed after the regulator, the Financial Supervisory Authority, required it to revise its prospectus.
Kim founded Iwilab, the predecessor of Kakao in 2006, and launched KakaoTalk four years later. According to a document submitted by the company in May, the Messenger service has approximately 53 million users worldwide, 88% of which are located in the domestic market.
Kakao’s business scope extends far beyond mobile messaging, and its business involves payment and banking, to games and ride-hailing services. It is now the fourth largest company listed in South Korea, with a market value of approximately US$58 billion.
Kim of Hyundai Motor Securities said that as people reduce face-to-face interactions, the pandemic helps to stimulate demand for Kakao mobile platform services. Compared with the same period last year, profits in the first three months of 2021 have tripled to approximately US$209 million.
According to a research report by Sung Jonghwa, an analyst at eBest Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul, Kakao is expected to conduct more IPOs because the ride-hailing, entertainment and Japanese business units also plan to go public.
Kakao said that Kakao Japan Corp. is cooperating with Nomura Holdings in an initial public offering, but the timetable has not yet been determined. The company said that although industry insiders expect other units to go public, it has not yet been determined.
Jin is 55 years old and comes from a humble background. He once shared a room with seven family members. He was the first of his siblings to go to university, studying at the prestigious Seoul National University, where he provided private tutoring to help pay for tuition.
He signed the donation pledge initiative initiated by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Melinda Frank Gates, promising to donate most of his property to help solve social problems.
“Growing up in poverty, until I was in my 30s, I believed that’becoming rich’ was the only measure of a successful life,” King wrote in a statement when he accepted his pledge in March. “However, after realizing the wealth I was after, I felt at a loss and lacked direction.”