K-pop group BTS triggers $2.2 billion Hybe rout with shift to solo work

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SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - Shares of Hybe, the agency that manages South Korean supergroup BTS, plunged by a record after the band said they will be focusing on individual projects for a little while.

Hybe sank as much as 28 per cent on Wednesday (June 15) in Seoul, headed for its lowest close on record since its trading debut in October 2020 and wiping out as much as US$1.7 billion (S$2.4 billion) in market value.

The stock is down nearly 60 per cent so far this year, significantly underperforming the broader equity benchmark amid uncertainties about the future of the BTS juggernaut.

The seven members of BTS, who are credited with generating billions of dollars for the South Korean economy, dropped the bombshell during their streamed annual "Festa" dinner, part of a celebration that marks their anniversary as a group.

The Festa video posted on YouTube has already garnered more than nine million views.

The singers said the time apart would be healthy for the band and urged fans not to view the development as negative.

“I felt like I needed time to spend on my own,” the group’s leader RM said in the hour-long video, which features the band discussing past successes as well as each other’s quirks while sharing food and wine. “It’s not like we’re disbanding,” member Suga said.

BTS will start a new chapter, carrying out their individual work as well as group activities, Hybe said in a statement, according to Yonhap News. Shares pared losses following the report.

Cultural loss

BTS is so huge that a government minister fretted that it would cause a “cultural loss for mankind” if the band had to suspend its work to enlist. Military service is mandatory for all men in South Korea, which is still technically at war with North Korea. 

The band’s oldest member Jin, 29, needs to sign up before the end of this year unless a related law is revised to allow for an exemption. 

Worries about the band’s future had battered the shares even before Wednesday’s plunge as the agency relies on the hitmaker for most of its sales. The slump means that Hybe has given up almost all of its gains since its trading debut. 

Hybe may face sharp downgrades to its profit and revenue estimates this year and next year, said Lee Hyein, an analyst at Yuanta Securities Korea. 

If Hybe confirms that BTS won’t resume concerts this year, its revenue for this year will likely be 25 per cent lower than previously estimated, while its profit will be cut as much as 33 per cent, Ms Lee wrote in a note. 

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