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IPOs

Top travel platform Yanolja eyes Q2 IPO review, listing by year-end

By Mar 01, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Top travel platform Yanolja eyes Q2 IPO review, listing by year-end

South Korea’s largest travel platform Yanolja is looking to have its initial public offering plans reviewed by regulators in the second quarter with an objective to make a trading debut on the local bourse by year-end.

If listed, the share offering will likely 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 a privately held company valued at over $1 billion.

According to the investment banking industry on Feb. 28, Yanolja is considering listing its shares on the tech-heavy Kosdaq market by means of the so-called “Tesla rules,” loosened IPO regulations the Korean government introduced last year to help technology startups go public with ease.

TESLA RULES

In October of last year, the Financial Services Commission said it will lower the bar for startups to go public if they meet certain IPO conditions despite their relatively poor balance sheets.

The system is designed to support unprofitable but promising firms in their bid to raise funds through an initial share sale, especially in the junior, tech-laden Kosdaq market.

Korea's largest travel platform Yanolja
Korea's largest travel platform Yanolja

The system is called Tesla rules or Tesla qualifications in Korea in reference to the US electric vehicle giant’s successful listing on the Nasdaq in 2010 in recognition of its advanced technology, although it was ridden with years of losses.

A Yanolja official said that a Kosdaq listing via the Tesla rules is an option, but the company “does not completely rule out the possibility of debuting on other markets.”

In November, the company mandated Mirae Asset Daewoo Co. and Samsung Securities Co. to handle the planned IPO, which may value the startup at as much as 5 trillion won ($4.4 billion).

The company is also considering naming a global brokerage firm to co-manage the IPO.

SECOND IPO BID

Yanolja is revisiting the IPO market after its first attempt in 2018 went awry, hit by worsening earnings and reports of controversial business activities by some of its franchisees. At the time, Mirae Asset Daewoo and Daishin Securities Co. were picked to underwrite the share sale.

The renewed IPO push comes as its revenue has steadily increased, doubling every year since 2017. Its sales reached 245 billion won ($218 million) in 2019 compared with 121.3 billion won the previous year. The company has yet to announce its 2020 revenue.

The travel platform, however, posted operating losses for years due to heavy growth acquisitions, although its losses narrowed to 10.1 billion won in 2019 from 16.8 billion won in 2018.

Industry officials said the startup is on course to swing to an operating profit this year thanks to a global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and due to the company’s diversified portfolio ranging from accommodations to transport ticketing and leisure activities.

Transaction values through its travel app are forecast to rise to an estimated 3 trillion won this year from 2 trillion won in 2020.

Yanolja 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 and India-based eZee Technosys, the world’s No. 2 hotel housekeeping service provider, in 2019.

Top travel platform Yanolja eyes Q2 IPO review, listing by year-end

AIMING FOR TOP SPOT AS HOTEL PMS PROVIDER

Yanolja is aiming to become the world’s top hotel property management system (PMS) provider by overtaking Oracle Corp., the market leader.

PMS is a set of solutions that hoteliers use to manage their day-to-day operations, including reservations, front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, billing and invoicing.

In a bid to turn its accommodations booking app into a comprehensive travel platform, the company has filled about 40% of its workforce with R&D personnel.

Some analysts liken Yanolja to global online booking platform Airbnb, which posted $4.7 billion in revenue in 2019, and then saw its enterprise value surge to $86.5 billion upon listing on the Nasdaq in 2020.

If Yanolja, with revenue one-tenth that of Airbnb's, decides to pursue a Nasdaq listing, its corporate value may be assessed in similar proportions at around $8.65 billion, they said.

Write to Jong-Woo Kim at jongwoo@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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