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Pre-IPOs

Travel app Yanolja seeks $900 mn from SoftBank pre-IPO

Assessed valuation in the $9 billion range

By May 25, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

(Courtesy of Yanolja)
(Courtesy of Yanolja)
South Korea’s largest travel platform Yanolja is in negotiations with SoftBank Vision Fund for an investment up to 1 trillion won ($900 million), which is expected to speed up the startup's planned initial public offering, according to investment banking sources on May 25.

Their assessed valuation on the travel app is in the 10 trillion won ($9 billion) range, a tenfold surge since Yanolja attained unicorn status in 2019 with a valuation of over 1 trillion won.

Yanolja, founded in 2005, posted its first-ever operating profit last year, despite the pandemic-caused slump in the travel and tourism industry. Its 2020 operating income came to 16.1 billion won, versus a 6.2 billion won shortfall a year earlier. Revenue surged 43.8% year-on-year to 192 billion won on a standalone basis.

The turnaround in its business was largely attributed to its adoption of the software as a service (SaaS) business model, which includes a cloud-based hotel property management system (PMS) to 26,000 hotels, leisure facilities and restaurants across 170 countries. The Korean startup was striving to transform into a software company with a diversified portfolio ranging from accommodation to transport ticketing and leisure activities.

PMS manages day-to-day hotel operations such as reservations, front desk services, housekeeping, maintenance, billing and invoicing.

Between 2018 and 2019, Yanolja acquired Southeast Asia's No. 1 hotel chain ZENRooms and India-based eZee Technosys, the world’s No. 2 hotel housekeeping service provider. 

Singapore's GIC and the US online travel agency Booking Holdings Inc. hold a combined 35-40% stake in the travel app after they poured $180 million in aggregate into Yanolja.

Other investors include Partners Investment, Murex Partners, Aju IB Investment, SBI Investment, SL Investment and SkyLake Investment. 

If Yanolja secures investment from Vision Fund, it will become the fourth Korean startup to receive funding from the Japanese venture capital firm. An investment from SoftBank will add wind to Yanolja's dual listing plan in both the US and South Korea. 

SoftBank had poured $3 billion in Coupang Corp. which produced hefty returns following the e-commerce platform's $4.6 billion IPO in New York in March of this year.

This year, Vision Fund 2 invested $160 million in IYUNO Media Group, a content localization firm, and $175 million in AI-based learning platform Riiid Inc.

Write to Chae-yeon Kim at why29@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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