Hong Kong/Seoul (CNN Business)The mastermind of global music phenomenon BTS is taking his company public.
Big Hit Entertainment, the talent agency behind the hugely popular Korean pop boy band, received preliminary approval this month to list on the country’s stock market.
The company is run by CEO Bang Si-Hyuk, a longtime music producer who is credited with creating BTS and setting it on the road to stardom in 2013. Bang is the major shareholder of Big Hit, with about 43% of the company’s stock, according to a stock exchange filing.
In a statement, the exchange confirmed that the firm had met its listing requirements and could move forward with its market debut. The move would give retail investors a chance to get in on the action around the seven-member group, whose breakout success has been compared with that of the Beatles.
BTS has been with Big Hit from the start, back when it was still regarded as an obscure startup label.
The band, whose name stands for “Beyond the Scene,” is known for its legions of loyal fans around the world, who call themselves the “ARMY.”
The group is one of the few “K-pop” bands to break into Western markets. Last year, BTS became only the third group in 50 years — after The Beatles and The Monkees — to have three number one albums on the Billboard 200 charts in less than 12 months.
The band’s success has helped Big Hit carve out a lucrative empire.
Big bucks from BTS
Last year, the company said it brought in about 587.2 billion won ($496 million) in revenue, and 98.7 billion won ($83 million) in operating profit.
While BTS is its biggest act, it’s not the only earnings driver. Big Hit also manages singer Lee Hyun and Tomorrow x Together, another South Korean boy band.
The agency reportedly has grand ambitions for its initial public offering. Earlier this year, the Financial Times reported that Big Hit was aiming to raise 1.2 trillion won ($990 million) in a listing in the second half of the year, citing an unidentified source.
According to the newspaper, sources believe the company could be worth as much as 6 trillion won ($5 billion). Last week, Reuters reported that some analysts expect the company could be worth more than 4 trillion won ($3.4 billion) when it goes public.
Big Hit declined to share details about its IPO and did not respond to a request for comment about its valuation.
The company has recently found ways to overcome some of the financial challenges spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, which has wiped out concert and event schedules around the world.
In a video presentation last week, the company reported 294 billion won ($248 million) in revenue and 49.7 billion won (about $42 million) in operating profit for the first half of 2020.
Bang noted that the company was helped by “not only album and music sales,” but also by holding online concerts that fans can watch from home and selling branded merchandise.
“Various areas drove profit,” he said.
— CNN’s Julia Hollingsworth contributed to this report.
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