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Korean online payment service Kakao Pay surges nearly 114% on the first day of trading

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Shares in Kakao Pay, the fintech unit of South Korea’s largest messaging app operator Kakao Corp, closed up 114% in its market debut on Wednesday. 

The Ant Financial-backed company ended day one of trading at $163.3 (193,000 won), securing a market capitalization of $21.2 billion. 

Kakao Pay’s shares surged as high as $194.6 (230,000 won) on the KOSPI, up 155.6% from the issue price of $76.2 (90,000 won), the upper end of its IPO range. 

Kakao Pay raised $1.3 billion (1.53 trillion won) at a $9.9 billion valuation, offering 17 million new shares in its initial public offering last week. 

The gains for Kakao Bank came amid a crackdown on the country’s tech companies by South Korean regulators and politicians. In September, local lawmakers accused the country’s big tech companies, including Kakao Pay’s parent company Kakao Corp, of monopoly issues. The lawmakers also have expressed concerns regarding the growing power and valuation of tech companies in Korea. 

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Kakao Pay had to delay its listing twice this summer as the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) asked Kakao Pay to cut its share price and valuation. The company lowered about 6% of its targeted IPO to $1.3 billion from $1.63 billion in July. 

Kakao Pay will use its IPO proceeds to speed up its global expansion, including in Southeast Asia, Europe and China, said CEO Alex Ryu at an online press conference last week. Southeast Asia and Middle East-based companies have been reaching out to the fintech company to seek strategic partnerships, Ryu mentioned. It will invest in AI, cloud, robo-advisors and blockchain-powered fintech companies in South Korea and overseas countries after the listing, Ryu added.

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“Kakao Pay is fundamentally a financial platform, and we seek to maintain symbiotic relationships of mutual growth with other financial institutions,” said Ryu. 

The company also plans to expand its offline payment infrastructure, operate a Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) service, set up a digital non-life insurance subsidiary, and launch a mobile trading system (MTS).  

Kakao Pay, founded in 2014, claims a total of 36.5 million users, with monthly active users at 20 million. The company’s total transaction volume recorded $72.4 billion for twelve months as of June, while its revenue increased more than 102% over the past two years during the pandemic. Kakao Pay recorded $6.9 million (8.2 billion won) in EBITDA in the first half of 2021. 

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Kakao Pay said one of its differentiators is creating synergies with its sister companies like Kakao messaging app, Kakao Bank, Kakao Mobility, and Kakao Games. 

Kakao Mobility and Kako Entertainment are also set to go public in 2022. 

Kakao Corp’s digital lender subsidiary Kakao Bank, which raised $2.3 billion via IPO in August, had a market cap of $23.9 billion (28 trillion won) as of today. 

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