Coupang shares soar 41% in trading debut after biggest US IPO since Uber

The offering by Coupang further accelerated the pace of IPOs on US exchanges this year. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang surged 41 per cent in its trading debut after delivering the biggest US initial public offering (IPO) since Uber Technologies.

Coupang, whose biggest backer is Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group, opened trading in New York on Thursday (March 11) at US$63.50 a share, an 81 per cent jump from its US$35 price in its upsized US$4.6 billion IPO on Wednesday. That briefly gave the company a market value of more than US$100 billion (S$134 billion). The shares closed at US$49.25, valuing Coupang at about US$84 billion.

The offering by Coupang further accelerated the pace of IPOs on US exchanges this year, elevating the total raised to more than US$114 billion, compared with US$180 billion in all of last year, itself a record, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Uber, which raised US$8.1 billion in its 2019 IPO, has a market value of US$110 billion. Coupang's IPO was also the biggest by any Asia-based company in New York since Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s US$25 billion listing in 2014, the biggest ever in the US

Coupang and its investors sold 130 million shares for US$35 each in the IPO, after marketing them for US$32 to US$34 apiece. Late in the process, the selling stockholders increased the shares they were selling to 30 million from 20 million. The previous price range had been boosted from US$27 to US$30 earlier.

In an unusual move, Coupang restricted access to its IPO to fewer than 100 investors, according to people familiar with the matter. The top 25 investors were allocated about 80 per cent of the deal, the people said.

"We were fortunate to have demand from a lot of great investors and we didn't have room for all of the great investors out there," Coupang's founder and chief executive officer, Bom Kim, said in an interview Thursday. "I think we're going to be going forward now with a wonderful group of investors, new investors as well, who share that long term vision and strategy."

Lockup exceptions

Coupang's IPO also includes exceptions to the typical lockup period barring employees and previous investors from selling shares for six months or more.

While Coupang's investors have agreed to a 180-day lock-up, that period is essentially shortened by the exceptions the company provided. Some employees can begin selling shares as soon as six days after the IPO as long as the company trades above its IPO price. Existing investors that are registered can sell a portion of their holdings in 12 days, providing the stock trades up at least 33 per cent from the offer price of US$35.

SoftBank's stake in Coupang is now worth about US$28 billion. In November 2018, SoftBank's Vision Fund invested US$2 billion in the company in a deal that valued Coupang at US$9 billion, people familiar with the matter said at the time. That funding followed US$1 billion from SoftBank itself in 2015, valuing the start-up at about US$5 billion.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which publishes The Straits Times, acquired a 0.1 per cent indirect stake in Coupang with a US$3.9 million investment in 2014. SPH said last month that the IPO was not expected to affect its recurring financial performance.

Voting control

Founded in 2010 by Kim, a Harvard University dropout, Coupang has grown into Korea's version of Inc. Kim will continue to control the company because of the dual share structure that gives him about 77 per cent of the voting rights, according to the company's filings.

The company has aggressively expanded its delivery and logistics operations, putting 70 per cent of the country's population within a seven-mile radius of its distribution centers, according to its prospectus filing. Coupang has also invested in new business lines like food delivery and streaming services.

Coupang has cut its losses by more than half as its revenue has more than tripled over the past three years, according to its filings. For 2020, Coupang had a net loss of US$475 million on revenue of about US$12 billion.

Goldman Sachs Group, Allen & Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co led the offering. Coupang's shares are trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol CPNG.

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