K-pop stocks up as agency behind BTS to become rival’s top shareholder


South Korean girl group aespa at the 2022 KBS Song Festival at Jamsil Arena on Dec. 16, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea.

The Chosunilbo Jns | Imazins | Getty Images

The K-pop agency behind BTS is set to become the largest shareholder of SM Entertainment — the legacy company known to have kickstarted the wave of popularity around Korean pop culture.

Hybe Co. agreed to acquire a 14.8% stake held by SM Entertainment’s founder Lee Soo-man by March, according to a filing early Friday morning ahead of Seoul’s market open — and pledged in a separate notice to buy another 25% stake.

That would make Hybe a top shareholder in SM Entertainment. Lee is currently SM Entertainment’s top investor with a 18.45% stake, according to Refinitiv data, followed by South Korea’s National Pension Service, KB Asset management and Norway’s Norges Bank Investment Management, its latest filings showed.

The deal is targeted at “raising its competitiveness in the K-pop industry and producing a synergy effect,” Hybe said in its filing.

Shares of SM Entertainment soared on Friday, rising more than 16% at the open in Seoul. Hybe rose 6% and JYP Entertainment rose 2.5%, while YG Entertainment gained 3.8%.

Girl group NewJeans attend the 2022 The Fact Music Awards on Oct. 8 in Seoul, South Korea.

Chung Sung-jun | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

The agency is also known for rising girl group NewJeans — which debuted in the Billboard’s Hot 100 with its hit “Ditto” last month within six months of its debut.

SM Entertainment is also the agency behind top bands Super Junior, Girls’ Generation and Red Velvet, a group that performed in front of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 at the most recent height of inter-Korean diplomacy, alongside then president Moon Jae-in.

Hybe purchased 3.5 million shares of SM Entertainment at 422.8 billion won ($334.2 million) — or 120,000 won per share, with a premium of more than 20% compared with SM Entertainment’s closing price of 98,500 won as of Thursday’s market close.

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That comes after South Korean internet company Kakao announced plans to acquire a 9% stake in SM Entertainment in a deal worth 217 billion won. Kakao shares surged shortly after the announcement on Tuesday earlier this week and last traded more than 4% lower on Friday.


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