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KakaoBank Soars Over 70% in Korean Online Lender’s Debut

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(Bloomberg) -- KakaoBank Corp., South Korea’s first internet-only lender to go public, surged more than 70% in its trading debut in Seoul to become the country’s largest retail lender by market value.

The stock’s jump of as much as 74% gave the company, which doesn’t have brick-and-mortar branches, a market capitalization of more than 32 trillion won ($28 billion), bigger than the country’s traditional financial groups. It was up 62% at 11:10 a.m. in Seoul.

First-day pops aren’t unusual in South Korea, where influential retail investors are keen to snap up stocks on their initial trading day for quick returns. Nearly half of the 113 companies that listed in Seoul during the past 12 months ended their inaugural session at least 30% higher than the initial public offering price, Bloomberg data show. Nineteen of them, including KakaoBank’s sister company Kakao Games Corp., closed up by the daily limit of 160%.

The bank’s IPO could mark a shift in the map of South Korean financial groups. Before KakaoBank’s trading debut, the country’s largest financial firm was KB Financial Group Inc. with about 22 trillion won in market value, followed by Shinhan Financial Group Co. with roughly 20 trillion won and Hana Financial Group Inc. with about 13 trillion won.

At its IPO price, KakaoBank was valued at 18.5 trillion won even though its assets were less than a 10th of some of the country’s biggest retail banks.

KakaoBank’s $2.2 billion offering is the biggest this year after Krafton Inc. The developer behind the hit game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is scheduled to make its trading debut on Tuesday after floating $3.8 billion worth of shares.

“The current market capital appears to have overshot the expectations,” Kim In, an analyst at BNK Securities, said in a research note before KakaoBank’s debut, initiating coverage with a “sell” rating and a price target of 24,000 won, lower than the IPO price. “The reality is that there is a huge concern about the stock’s sharp fall.”

Many projects through its platform businesses are difficult to execute while its profit from those new businesses are meager, Kim said. Most of its profit comes from interest rates and loans, just like other traditional banks, he said.

KakaoBank is the latest company to go public among Kakao Corp.’s affiliates. Kakao Games raised 384 billion won in September and its shares soared about 250% since the IPO. Kakao Pay Corp., the country’s largest online-payments service, was seeking to debut on Aug. 12 but the listing was delayed after regulators asked it to revise its prospectus. More IPOs are likely to follow at Kakao, with its ride-hailing, entertainment and Japan business units potentially going public.KakaoBank was formed in 2016 after the Korean government offered online-banking permits for the first time in 2015. Its users grew quickly as the online bank has benefited from the parent company’s messenger service with 46 million active users out of a population of about 51 million.Although it’s leading the online bank industry, competition is rising in the country, which is aggressively adopting fintech services. Viva Republica Ltd. plans to launch Toss Bank as early as September after receiving the country’s third internet banking license. K Bank, which has amassed new users in the cryptocurrency space, raised 1.2 trillion won from shareholders including Bain Capital.

(Updates with first-day performance of other companies in third paragraph.)

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