South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang had a strong market debut in the U.S. on Thursday, indicating investor confidence in its strategy of focusing on the Korean market despite growing competition.
Coupang shares jumped 40.7% to $49.25 in New York Stock Exchange trading following an IPO that raised $4.6 billion — the biggest on a U.S. exchange since Uber Technologies raised $8.1 billion in 2019 and the largest by any Asia-based company in New York since Alibaba’s $25 billion listing in 2014.
The IPO was priced at $35 per share, valuing Coupang at about $60 billion. “Coupang is hitting the market after the COVID-19 pandemic caused millions of consumers to remain home, leading to an e-commerce boom,” CNBC said, noting that it nearly doubled its revenue to $12 billion last year.
Founded in 2010 by Harvard Business School dropout Bom Kim, Coupang is often compared to Amazon or Alibaba. But as Fortune reports, “international expansion isn’t core to its growth strategy — at least for now.”
South Korea is one of the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce markets, projected to become the third-largest in the world this year, behind only China and the United States, and it has the highest online shopping penetration of any nation.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Kim told Fortune. “We believe we were just three to four percent of the [e-]commerce market last year, which is such a small percentage. We’re just scratching at the surface.”
Through its “rocket delivery” service, Coupang offers same-day as well as “dawn” delivery on goods ordered before midnight the day before, with its fleet of 15,000 Coupang Friend couriers making deliveries. “Coupang has grown fast by meeting two most important needs of customers: cheap prices and fast delivery,” Ju Yoon-hwang, a professor of distribution management at Jangan University, told The New York Times.
The company, however, lost nearly $475 million last year and major competition is looming. Some of the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate the Korean economy are expanding their online business, including Lotte and Shinsegae, which operate the country’s biggest department store and shopping mall chains, while Naver is already an e-commerce giant.