Yanolja, a popular South Korean travel app, is reportedly planning a dual IPO listing in both Korea and overseas. According to Bloomberg, the company is also one of many startups who seek higher IPO valuations from across the water.
Sources connected to Yanolja say that the company wants to aim for a value of $4 billion or more. At the moment, though, the company still wants to explore all of its options; it also has yet to finalize the size and location of its IPO.
Talking with Bloomberg News, a Yanolja representative confirmed that the company is receiving several requests and offers in regards having an overseas listing.
“As it could be an opportunity to be recognized as a leading company that has capabilities to manage global business operations and solution technologies, we are open to reviewing an overseas listing along with a domestic IPO,” they said.
In November, Korean news outlets reported that Yanolja selected Mirae Asset Daewoo as its lead underwriter; it also selected Samsung Securities as a co-underwriter for the IPO. Furthermore, the company hired Choi Chan-seok as its new chief investment officer, a move that was said to help speed up its IPO process.
News of Yanolja’s dual IPO comes soon after Coupang (NYSE: CPNG), South Korea’s largest e-commerce company, went public with its debut on the New York Stock Exchange on March 11. Coupang’s shares rose by 40 percent, and ended the day with a market cap of $84.47 billion; this became the largest IPO in the United States so far this year.
What Is Yanolja?
Yanolja comes from the mind of founder Lee Su-jin. It offers different services for travel, including accommodation, leisure and transportation. In addition, it manages more than 10,000 rooms, making it one of the largest franchise operators in Southeast Asia.
Before founding the company in 2005, Lee worked as a housekeeper and valet at a love hotel; love hotels are a type of short-stay hotel that operates for the purpose of allowing guests privacy for sexual activities.
In 2004, however, an anti-prostitution law passed in South Korea and threatened to end the love hotel industry for good. Lee, who was always thankful to the love hotel for giving him a steady wage and a place to stay, wanted to help prevent the industry from losing customers. So, he sought out to reinvent the love hotel and and break the stigma surrounding them.
When Lee first created Yanolja, it started out as a search portal-turned-online advertising platform; this gave hotel owners the chance to attract new guests. In 2007, he launched Yanolja as a full booking site and introduced Yanolja renovation services. These services helped love hotels clean up their image and target new customers.
In the last decade or so, Yanolja gained an amount of traction, becoming a leading travel bookings site in South Korea. With the success it had from helping love hotels, it began expanding its services to include regular hotels, guest houses, and even the company’s own line of accomodations.
Yanolja was able to raise around $242 million in funding through investors like GIC, Singapore sovereign wealth fund, and Booking Holdings, which owns Booking.com, KAYAK, Priceline and more. The company’s funding round in 2019 gave it a valuation of $1 billion, making Yanolja the eighth “unicorn” in South Korea.