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IPOs

Top Korean travel startup Yanolja taps 2021 IPO managers

Nov 20, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)




South Korea’s largest travel platform Yanolja has mandated Mirae Asset Daewoo Co. and Samsung Securities Co. to handle its initial public offering planned for next year, which may value the startup at up to 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion), according to investment banking sources on Nov. 20.

The share offering is likely to prompt its investors, including Singapore’s GIC and US online travel agency Booking Holdings Inc., to exit part of their combined 35-40% stake in the country's eighth unicorn, or privately held company valued at over $1 billion.

Its projected value is five times the estimate used by GIC and Booking Holdings when they invested a combined $180 million in Yanolja in June 2019, the sources said. For Seoul-based SkyLake Investment, the valuation soared by tenfold since it invested 60 billion won in 2017. It demanded an IPO within five years as a condition for the investment.  

The Korean startup is also set to select a global brokerage firm soon to co-manage the IPO.

It is Yanolja’s second attempt to go public after it withdrew its IPO plan in 2018, hit by worsening earnings and reports of controversial business activities by some of its franchisees. At the time, Mirae Asset Daewoo and Daishin Securities were picked to underwrite its IPO.   

After Yanolja turned to a profit last year, based on its EBITDA, it revisited the IPO plan. It narrowed its operating loss by 70% to 10.1 billion won in 2019.

The startup is on course to swing to an operating profit this year. Thanks to its diversified portfolio ranging from accommodation to transport ticketing and leisure activities, Yanolja's revenue came to around 600 billion won in transaction value between January and September, up 4% year on year despite the COVID-19 fallout. That contrasted with global rivals Agoda and Hotels.com, which posted sharp declines in revenue during the same period.

The Korean travel platform has expanded its businesses through bolt-on acquisitions both at home and abroad, including the purchase of Southeast Asia's No. 1 hotel chain ZENRooms in 2018.

It aims to become a leading cloud-based hotel housekeeping software company following its acquisition of India-based eZee Technosys, the world’s No. 2 hotel housekeeping service provider in 2018.

South Korean private equity and venture capital firms have poured around 100 billion won into the travel platform, in which CEO Lee Soo-jin is the largest shareholder with a 41.6% stake. Other investors include telecoms operator KT Corp., Aju IB Investment, SBI Investment Korea and Hanwha Asset Management.

Write to Ye-jin Jun at ace@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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