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Webtoon Rises Modestly In IPO Debut

Shares of online comics publisher Webtoon Entertainment closed up nearly 10% in first-day trading Thursday, after the company priced shares for its IPO at the top of the proposed range.

The company raised $315 million in the offering, setting an initial valuation of around $2.67 billion. Shares are trading on Nasdaq under the symbol WBTN.

Although headquartered in Los Angeles, Webtoon has its roots in Korea. It’s majority-owned by South Korea’s Naver, which had a 71% pre-IPO stake, and Japan’s LY Corp., with a 29% stake.

Webtoon was launched in Korea nearly 20 years ago as the brainchild of its CEO, Junkoo Kim, then a search engineer at Naver. The founding vision was to create a platform for comic creators to reach a wider global audience.

Since then, Webtoon’s well-known format displaying art and text in a single continuous, vertical scroll has caught on in a big way. The company estimates that half of South Koreans visit the platform each month. It also has broad global reach, with an estimated 170 million monthly active users each month across more than 150 countries.

Between 2017 and 2023 it has paid out over $2.8 billion to creators who publish on its platform, Webtoon says. The average professional creator, it adds, is earning $48,000 a year and the top 100 are earning $1 million.

In the first quarter of this year, Webtoon had revenue of $327 million and net income of $6 million. In all of 2023, meanwhile, Webtoon had revenue of $1.28 billion, and posted a net loss of $145 million.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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