Naver's Webtoon Entertainment aims up to $2.67 billion valuation in US IPO

A general view of the Naver sign on its office building in Seongnam, South Korea, May 13, 2022. Picture taken May 13, 2022. REUTERS/ Heo Ran/File Photo

(Reuters) -Online comics platform Webtoon Entertainment said on Monday it is targeting a valuation of up to $2.67 billion in its initial public offering in the United States.

The company, majority-owned by South Korean tech giant Naver, is aiming to raise as much as $315 million by offering 15 million shares at a price range of $18 to $21 each.

Los Angeles, California-based Webtoon joins a roster of companies looking to tap into improving investor appetite for stock market listings amid rising bets of a soft landing for the U.S. economy.

The company was founded nearly two decades ago as a side project of CEO Junkoo Kim, then a search engineer at Naver.

Webtoon, which primarily caters to Gen Z and millennial users, operates a library of web comics and novels offering thousands of titles across multiple genres, including fantasy, romance and science fiction.

Its platform connects 24 million creators with nearly 170 million monthly active users in over 150 countries, as of end-March.

Webtoon mainly competes with South Korean tech conglomerate Kakao Corp.

Certain fund and accounts managed by asset manager BlackRock have indicated interest in purchasing up to $50 million worth of shares sold in the IPO.

Separately, Naver's U.S. subsidiary Naver U.Hub has agreed to purchase $50 million worth of shares of Webtoon in a private placement transaction.

Webtoon's largest shareholders include Naver and Tokyo-based LY Corp, which is majority owned by a joint venture between SoftBank and Naver.

After the IPO and the private placement, Naver will hold a 63.4% stake in Webtoon.

Webtoon Entertainment will list on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol "WBTN".

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Securities and Evercore Group are the lead underwriters for the offering.

(Reporting by Arasu Kannagi Basil in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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