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2020 earnings

Kakao’s private affiliates post record growth in 2020

By Mar 19, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Kakao Emoticons (courtesy of Kakao)
Kakao Emoticons (courtesy of Kakao)

South Korean tech giant Kakao’s unlisted subsidiaries have posted record-high growth figures for the previous financial year.

According to Kakao’s recent regulatory filing, the company’s diverse range of business units from e-commerce to webtoons and mobility saw a significant growth in 2020, largely driven by the rise of contactless services amid the pandemic.

The information technology and AI solutions provider Kakao Enterprise boasted the highest year-over-year growth among the affiliates at 1315%, with its 2020 revenue reaching 67.9 billion won ($60 million).

Graphics by Jerry Lee
Graphics by Jerry Lee

STELLAR RESULTS IN AI, E-COMMERCE & ENTERTAINMENT

Kakao Enterprise spun off as a separate entity in 2019 and is now valued at 1 trillion won ($884 million), based on its recent 100 billion won ($88.4 million) funding in January from the Korea Development Bank.

The entity was able to expand its business quickly across multiple industries in 2020 thanks to high demand for digital transformation.

Last year, it signed digital transformation deals with 16 clients including NH Investment & Securities, Samsung’s theme park operator Everland as well as the government agency Korea Intellectual Property Office.

Kakao Enterprise’s AI-based work solutions platform Kakao Work also drew more than 100,000 active accounts in just 3 months from its September launch.  

Kakao Commerce, the tech giant’s e-commerce unit, also recorded drastic growth in step with the rise in online shopping volume in Korea. Its 2020 revenue reached 573.5 billion won ($507 million) and net profit marked 123.2 billion won ($109 million), up 94% and 114% respectively.

Kakao’s webtoon business, driven by KakaoPage, is also thriving.

KakaoPage posted annual revenue of 343 billion won ($303 million) for 2020, up 38% from the previous year and its net profit saw a five-fold increase from 6 billion won ($5.3 million) to 32.2 billion won ($28.5 million).

The webtoon unit operates Piccoma in Japan, the country’s largest webtoon platform with 2020 annual payment transaction of 414.6 billion won ($366.6 million), up 188% from 2019.

Piccoma is also the world’s number one mobile app in the digital cartoon category since July 2020 in terms of annual revenue.

Kakao M, which merged with KakaoPage this year to form Kakao Entertainment, also posted annual growth of 27%.

STEADY GROWTH IN MOBILITY & MOBILE PAYMENT SECTORS

Kakao Mobility, which provides taxi, navigation and parking services, also reported a revenue growth of 117%. Its mobile app has accumulated 28 million users as of last year.  

The mobility company shared that last year saw an expansion in the number of its premium service taxis, Kakao T Blue, to 16,000 vehicles addressing the pandemic-driven demand.

“Kakao T Parking service, having strengths in real-time parking navigation and automatic payment, has made entry to the Everland theme park last year and is currently expanding to large shopping malls such as COEX”, said a Kakao representative.

Kakao’s mobile payment segment, spearheaded by Kakao Pay, also set new earnings records.

Kakao Pay’s annual transaction reached an all-time high at 67 trillion won ($59 billion) last year, with the company’s 2020 revenue rising by 74% to 245.6 billion won ($217 million).

The sustained revenue growth of Kakao’s numerous business entities, which are not listed yet on the local stock market, is fueling expectations for the company’s future IPO plans.

Kakao Games Corp., which made its debut on Kosdaq last July, already passed a market capitalization of 3 trillion won ($2.6 billion), while Kakao Bank, set for public offering within 2021, is currently valued at more than 9 trillion won ($7.9 billion) after its rights offering of 1 trillion won ($884 million) last December.

Write to Joo-Wan Kim at kjwan@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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