Netmarble to Raise $2.3 Billion After Pricing IPO at the Top

  • A successful IPO would be South Korea’s biggest since 2010
  • Korean game publisher’s titles include Lineage 2 Revolution

Netmarble Games Corp. will raise as much as $2.3 billion after pricing its initial public offering at the top of its targeted range, amassing funds to get into new markets and titles.

The South Korean mobile games company will sell 17 million new shares to raise as much as 2.66 trillion won ($2.3 billion) in the country’s largest listing since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At that price, the Lineage developer will be valued at more than $11 billion, outstripping rivals such as Nexon Co. 

Founded by Bang Jun-hyuk in 2000 with 100 million won, Netmarble is the ninth-largest game publisher in the world, according to researcher App Annie. It wants to capitalize on rising demand for games as smartphone adoption grows outside of its core markets of the U.S., China, South Korea and Japan. A public float will help bankroll a shopping spree that could amount to as much as 5 trillion won in coming years, Chief Executive Officer Kwon Young-sig told reporters this week.

“Netmarble can use much of the proceeds from its planned IPO to invest in developing new franchises or for M&A to grow beyond its major markets,” Anthea Lai, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote this month. “Netmarble can also look to build or buy developers to enter new game genres and diversify sales.”

Biggest Since 2010

Netmarble’s debut will be Korea’s biggest since Samsung Life Insurance Co. raised 4.9 trillion won in 2010. The company plans to sell shares at 157,000 won apiece and expects trading to start on May 12, Kwon said. NH Investment & Securities Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have been appointed lead managers to the IPO while Korea Investment and Securities Co. and Citigroup Inc. are managers.

Employees play mobile games on smartphones in the cafeteria at the Netmarble Games Corp. headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday, April 14, 2017. Netmarble, 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. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg
Employees play mobile games at the Netmarble Games headquarters in Seoul.
Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Netmarble released fantasy role-playing game Lineage 2 Revolution in December 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. The company is keen to add to its portfolio while expanding its user base geographically, particularly into fast-growing China.

Tencent Holdings Ltd. -- which owns 22 percent of Netmarble, according to previous filings -- is expected to help the South Korean company grab a bigger share of the Chinese market. The South Korean company has taken other steps to expand overseas, striking a deal in December to buy Kabam’s studios in Vancouver.

A successful IPO marks a windfall for Netmarble’s early backers. Those include Bang, who sold a stake in Netmarble to South Korean conglomerate CJ in 2004 before resigning in 2006 due to health problems. After a five-year break, the founder returned in 2011 and is now the biggest shareholder with a 30.6 percent stake. CJ E&M Corp. holds another 27.6 percent, according to previous filings. 

Known for its hard-charging culture, the company sparked a national conversation over the welfare of its employees when three workers died between July and November last year. None of the deaths had been ruled as affiliated with the company, according to Netmarble. But the company has since banned all overnight updates -- even if it means a delay in launching new games -- and implemented measures to supplement its personnel and grant holidays to employees who work overtime.

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