South Korea-Owned Webtoon Launches Its Nasdaq IPO

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The serial comics platform, with US headquarters in Los Angeles, rings the bell at the Nasdaq, raising US$315 valuation on its opening day.

Webtoon founding CEO Junkoo Kim, center, is joined by company members in ringing the bell at the opening of the trading day, June 27, for the company’s initial public offering. Image provided to Publishing Perspectives by Webtoon Entertainment

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Webtoons’ Nasdaq Ticker Symbol is WBTN
At the closing bell today in New York City on the Nasdaq exchange, the newly launched Webtoon IPO is closing at US$23.00, up 9.52 percent on the day’s opening price of $21.

Our Publishing Perspectives readers are very familiar with Webtoon Entertainment, the Seoul-based serial comics platform, which was founded in South Korea in 2005 by its CEO, Junkoo Kim. Naver, the parent company of Webtoon, in 2021 acquired Canada’s Wattpad for US$600 million. Webtoon now classifies itself as the Toronto-based Wattpad’s parent company.

In November 2020, a subsidiary, Webtoon Studios, was created to license English-language properties, and our readers will remember the Wattpad-generated projects that were moving to the studio unit for development.

Today (June 27), Webtoon’s IPO (initial public offering) of 15 million shares of common stock opened at US$21 per share—the top of its target range of $18 to $21 per share—as a Nasdaq-listed company under the new ticker symbol WBTN. Webtoon has granted underwriters a 30-day option to buy up to 2.2 million additional shares at the offering price, minus underwriting discounts and commissions.

At BBC News, Joao da Silva had written before the bell that Webtoon Entertainment had set its market value at $2.67 billion prior to its US listing. Its American headquarters is on Wiltshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Da Silva also reported early interest from fund manager BlackRock in buying up to $50 million in shares.

Reuters has reported this afternoon that shares of the platform “rose as much as 14.3 percent above their initial public offering price, raising $315 million, in line with expectations for the gross proceeds before deducting the underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by Webtoon.

A registration statement relating to the sale of these securities was declared effective on Wednesday (June 26) by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In materials accompanying its IPO, Webtoon reports that at the end of March, it had:

  • Approximately 170 million active monthly users
  • Fifty-five titles
  • Some 900 adapted titles including more than 100 streaming series and films
  • More than 200 books
  • More than 70 games
  • More than 11 million consumer product units.
Kim: ‘Democratizing Content Creation and Publication’

Image: From the Webtoon site on June 27, as the IPO is launched. Image: Webtoon Entertainment

In a comment on today’s news, Kim—who rang the opening bell today at Nasdaq—is quoted, saying, “Today marks an exciting moment in Webtoon’s history. I founded Webtoon because I wanted to make it easier to find, share, and create incredible stories.

Junkoo Kim

“Through our global storytelling platforms, we have pioneered a cultural movement by revolutionizing the storytelling format, and democratizing content creation and publication.

“Today, Web comics are among the most exciting storytelling formats in the world and what we’ve pioneered has launched a new generation of artists with passionate fandoms, hit TV and film projects, and bestsellers on bookshelves around the world.”

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are acting as lead bookrunning managers for the proposed offering. JP Morgan and Evercore ISI are acting as active bookrunning managers for the proposed offering. Deutsche Bank Securities, UBS Investment Bank and HSBC are acting as joint bookrunning managers. Raymond James and LionTree are acting as co-managers.

Less than a month ago, as we reported, news from Webtoon was about a partnership agreement with the Orlando-based American company Thales InFlyt Experience to integrate Webtoon’s catalogue of online comics during flights that carry the Thales product.

Image: From the Webtoon site on June 27, as the IPO is launched. Image: Webtoon Entertainment

More from Publishing Perspectives on comics is here, more on Webtoon is here, and more on the South Korean market is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.