Shares in firm behind South Korean hit BTS soar in trading debut

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — Powered by strong support from avid fans, shares of South Korea’s Big Hit Entertainment, the company that manages global pop sensation BTS, soared in their trading debut yesterday in Seoul.

Big Hit’s solid debut after an IPO that netted more than USD800 million was widely expected by analysts given the loyalty of the fan base to the seven-member boy band that has been dominating Billboard charts after gathering a huge following around the globe.

Despite the concert-killing COVID-19 pandemic, Big Hit has prospered thanks to huge demand for its online content, including live streamed BTS concerts that reportedly attracted over 1.7 million fans.

The company’s shares opened at KRW270,000 (USD236), about double their initial public offering price. They surged 30 per cent, hitting the daily trading limit, before falling back and closing at KRW258,000 (USD225), bringing the company’s valuation to KRW8.7 trillion (USD7.5 billion).

Big Hit has a tight grip over its revenue streams, with BTS merchandise and other products exclusively sold through its ‘Weverse’ e-commerce platform.

Big Hit raised KRW926.6 billion (USD841 million) in what was South Korea’s largest IPO since 2017.

Big Hit Entertainment Ltd’s Chairman and CEO Bang Si-Hyuk with other participants during the listing ceremony of the company at the Korea Exchange in Seoul. PHOTO: AP

“The company has managed to grow beyond the traditional revenue sources of album sales and concerts and diversify its business through online channels,” wrote South Korea’s E-Best Investment and Securities Analyst Ahn Jin-ah in a report that described Big Hit’s stock market entrance as a “drop of dynamite”. BTS accounted for more than 80 per cent of the company’s revenue during the first half of 2020, according to a separate report by Samsung Securities.

BTS launched in 2013 and has a legion of global supporters who call themselves the ‘Army’. It became the first K-pop act to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart last month with their first all-English song Dynamite.

The band — comprising J-Hope, RM, Suga, Jungkook, V, Jin and Jimin — has performed in sold-out arenas around the world and was even invited to speak at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly last month.

BTS has become a source of national pride, with some lawmakers even arguing that its members should be exempted from the two-year military service that’s mandatory for most able-bodied males, saying that the singers have already done much for the country.

Unlike many other K-pop artistes whose carefully cultivated images are shaped by their management agencies, BTS members actively engage with their fans through social media and often write their own lyrics. That personal touch is a huge part of their appeal, music experts said.

BTS fans who apparently follow everything and anything about the band naturally took an interest in Big Hit’s stock market debut.

Sara Ali, a BTS fan from Sudan, said she had been talking with fellow Army members about Big Hit’s business prospects and was hoping to buy a few shares herself.

“I believe this is an excellent opportunity,” she said through a text message.