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South Korea’s Big Hit Entertainment, the company that manages K-pop supergroup BTS, went public on Thursday at $236 per share, twice its initial public offering price, to hit a value of $8.38 billion.
The IPO made Big Hit founder and co-CEO Bang Si-hyuk a billionaire, and— at the highest share price on Thursday—raised $20 million each for the seven members of BTS, who received an equal stake in the company from Bang in August.
Big Hit’s debut is South Korea’s largest listing in three years, raising around $840 million. BTS, arguably the biggest musical act in the world at the moment, is responsible for the vast majority of Big Hit’s revenue and generated much of the hype surrounding the label’s IPO.
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Big Hit made $86 million in profit last year and was valued at $4 billion before its Thursday debut. BTS accounted for almost 90% of Big Hit’s total sales of $249 million in the first half of 2020, meaning the label relies heavily on the success of the band.
That dependence comes with risks.
One concern is that the band members still need to complete the two years of compulsory military service required of all South Korean men. Jin, the oldest member of BTS, is nearing 28, the upper age limit for conscription. The band’s legions of loyal fans—and some politicians—are calling for delays to BTS’s military service or the formation of an alternative option, like working abroad to represent South Korean interests.
In August, BTS released “Dynamite”—the group’s first song entirely recorded in English—and it debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the group’s first U.S. number one single; it topped the charts in at least 11 countries.
The global success of BTS has been an economic boon for South Korea as well as for Bang and the seven band members.
A December 2018 report by the Hyundai Research Institute estimated that BTS contributes around $3.5 billion to South Korea’s economy every year. The band’s contributions include $1.12 billion in exports of BTS-related merchandise. The band is also responsible for one in every 13 visitors to South Korea annually, as superfans attend concerts or make Mecca-like pilgrimages to the members’ homeland.
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