Move Over Samsung, There’s a New Tycoon in Town
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Meet Brian Kim, the guy who just unseated Samsung as the no.1 tycoon in South Korea. The founder of the popular messaging app Kakao Corp has seen his fortune go up to more than US$6 billion this year, which puts him at the top of the ranking of the wealthiest man in the country.

According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Kim is now worth US$13.5 billion the moment Kakao shares rose to 90% in 2021. The one that dropped to second place was none other than Jay Y. Lee, heir of Samsung with a net worth of US$12.3 billion.

“Expectations have built up ahead of the listings of Kakao’s key units,” said Hyunyong Kim, an analyst at Hyundai Motor Securities Co. in Seoul. “Kakao’s strategy has been to expand its business rapidly by aggressively attracting investment. IPOs are the smoothest and most surefire way.”

Kakao has already confirmed Kim’s value, excluding the shares he pledged as collateral.

KakaoBank Corp. an online lender, where Kakao has a 32% stake, is due to go public in August. The company is expected to raise 2.6 trillion won (US$2.3 billion) after pricing at the top of the marketing range.

All this came after their gaming unit Kakao Games Corp. raised 384 billion won in September IPO.

The country’s largest online-payments service, Kakao Pay Corp. was scheduled for a debut on the 12th of August but due to regulators from Financial Supervisory Service, the listing might get a slight delay as they asked for a revision of its prospectus.

It all started with Iwilab, in 2006, the predecessor before KakaoTalk was launched four years later. To date, the messenger service has around 53 million users worldwide, of who 88% of them are in Korea, according to a company filing in May.

Kakao has expanded far more than just a mobile messaging app, with business in payments and banking to even gaming and e-hailing. LIsted in South Korea as the fourth largest company in Korea, valued around $58 billion.

As the pandemic started to take over the globe, with social distancing becoming the new norm, it accelerated demans for Kakao’s mobile-platform services according to Kim of Hyundai Motor Securities. Which saw their profit tripped to around $209 million in just three months into 2021 compared to last year.

More IPOs are expected to follow suit with Kakao’s venture in e-hailing, entertainment as Japan business units have plans to go public, according to a research made by an analyst at eBest Investment & Securities Co, Sung Jonghwa.

It wasn’t always like this. Kim, 55 came from humble beginnings, at one time he had to share a single room with seven family members. Being the first of his siblings to attend college, furthered his studies at Seoul National University while giving private tutoring to help pay his tuition fees.

Like many other billionaires, he has signed the Giving Pledge initiative started by Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, as a promise to donate a portion of his fortune to help solve social issues.

“Having grown up in poverty, up until my 30s, I regarded ‘becoming rich’ the sole measure of a successful life,” Kim wrote in a statement in March when he took the pledge. “However, after having achieved the wealth that I had aimed for, I was left feeling rudderless and lacking direction.”

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Source : Bloomberg