Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Netmarble Seeks as Much as $2.4 Billion in IPO for Gamemaker

Updated on
  • A successful IPO could be South Korea’s biggest since 2010
  • Game publisher’s titles include Lineage 2 Revolution

Netmarble Games, South Korea’s largest maker of mobile phone games, filed to raise as much as 2.7 trillion won ($2.4 billion) in an initial public offering.

The company will sell 17 million shares at 121,000 won to 157,000 won apiece, Seoul-based Netmarble said in a filing Monday. Final pricing will be announced on April 24. At the top price, a successful IPO would value Netmarble at about 13.3 trillion won.

Founded by Bang Jun-hyuk in 2000 with 100 million won of capital, Netmarble is now the ninth-largest game publisher in the world, according to App Annie. The company is capitalizing on rising demand for games played on smartphones as casual players seek new content to play. An IPO at the top price would be the biggest in South Korea since Samsung Life Insurance Co. raised 4.9 trillion won in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In December, Netmarble released Lineage 2 Revolution, a role-playing game set in a middle ages fantasy world, and the title collected more than 200 billion won in sales in its first month. Other games by the company include Seven Knights, Everybody’s Marble, and MARVEL Future Fight.

NH Investment & Securities Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are the lead managers to the IPO while Korea Investment and Securities Co. and Citigroup Inc. are managers.

Netmarble said it plans to spend 1 trillion won on deals and investment with 897 billion won to be used to repay debt.

Bang sold a stake in Netmarble to South Korean conglomerate CJ in 2004 and in 2006 he resigned amid health problems. After a five-year break, Bang returned in 2011 and he is now the biggest shareholder with 30.6 percent of the company. CJ E&M holds 27.6 percent while Tencent Holdings Ltd. has 22 percent, according to Monday’s filing. The South Korean company has been expanding overseas, striking a deal in December to buy Kabam’s studios in Vancouver.

Known for its hard-charging culture, the company sparked a national conversation over the welfare of its employees when three Netmarble workers died suddenly between July and November last year. None of the deaths had been ruled as affiliated with the company, according to Netmarble, which has been urging workers to leave on time after some nicknamed their workplace a “lighthouse” for its tendency to operate into late hours.

The company has said it will ban all overnight updates starting March -- even if it means a delay in launching new games. Netmarble also pledged to supplement its personnel and grant holidays to employees who work overtime.

— With assistance by Shinhye Kang

(Updates with biographical detail of founder starting in third paragraph.)
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