GIC-backed South Korean travel app eyes dual IPO listing at over US$4b valuation

Yanolja is hoping to tap resurgent interest in South Korea's tech scene. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - South Korea's largest travel app Yanolja is in talks with banks to go public through a dual listing in Seoul and overseas, people with knowledge of the matter said, joining a growing cohort of start-ups seeking higher valuations abroad.

The company is aiming for a value of more than US$4 billion (S$5.38 billion), one of the people said, confirming previous reports in Korean media.

Yanolja, which is also the world's largest property management software provider after Oracle, is still exploring options and the size and location of its initial public offering (IPO) have not yet been finalised, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

Yanolja, founded by janitor Lee Su-jin in 2005 originally as a short-stay hotel-booking service, is hoping to tap resurgent interest in South Korea's tech scene.

The move comes after e-commerce champion Coupang's successful debut on the New York Stock Exchange this month. Its valuation briefly pushed past US$100 billion, affirming a belief at home that going public on bigger markets like the US may produce higher valuations.

"It is true that we are receiving various requests and offers related to an overseas listing," Yanolja told Bloomberg News in a statement. "As it could be an opportunity to be recognised as a leading company that has capabilities to manage global business operations and solution technologies, we are open to reviewing an overseas listing along with a domestic IPO."

Recent high-profile start-up exits, such as Woowa Brothers' US$4 billion sale to Delivery Hero and Match Group's US$1.7 billion takeover of Hyperconnect, signalled growing interest among foreign investors in South Korea's tech sector.

That has spurred hopes that start-ups can tap overseas markets to avoid the so-called Korean discount, which investors apply because of longstanding concerns about governance and transparency in the country.

Backed by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and Booking Holdings, Yanolja has been expanding its business to include leisure activities and transportation reservations along with hotel bookings.

With its acquisition of Indian lodgings management platform eZee Technosys in 2019, the start-up says it is now the world's largest cloud-based hotel management solution provider.

The company is expected to report its sales grew in 2020 - despite the coronavirus outbreak's effects on the travel industry - when it reports full-year earnings this month.

Yanolja announced in November that it selected Mirae Asset Daewoo as a lead arranger along with Samsung Securities as a co-underwriter with a goal to go public this year. The start-up has a Singaporean subsidiary.

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