Shares in firm behind SKorean hit BTS soar in trading debut

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Powered by strong support from avid fans, shares of South Korea’s Big Hit Entertainment, the company that manages global pop sensation BTS, have soared in their trading debut in Seoul.

Big Hit’s solid debut Thursday after an IPO that netted more than $800 million was widely expected by analysts given the loyalty of the fan base for the seven member boy band that has been dominating Billboard charts after gathering a huge following around the globe.

Despite the concert-killing COVID-19 pandemic, Big Hit’s business has prospered thanks to huge demand for its online content, including livestreamed BTS concerts that reportedly attracted more than 1.7 million fans.

The company’s shares opened at 270,000 won ($236), about double their initial public offering price. They surged 30%, hitting the daily trading limit, before falling back closer to their opening level.

Big Hit has a tight grip over its revenue streams, with BTS merchandise and other products exclusively sold through its “Weverse” e-commerce platform.

Big Hit raised 926.6 billion won ($841 million) in what was South Korea’s largest IPO since 2017.

“The company has managed to grow beyond the traditional revenue sources of album sales and concerts and diversify its business through online channels,” wrote Ahn Jin-ah, an analyst from South Korea’s E-Best Investment and Securities, in a report that described Big Hit’s stock market entrance as a “drop of dynamite.”

Big Hit’s stock market debut came days after Chinese nationalists erupted in anger at BTS after its leader, RM, thanked Korean War veterans for their sacrifices while receiving a reward for promoting U.S.-South Korea relations.

Chinese internet users and state media took RM’s comments as a slap at China, whose soldiers fought alongside North Korea against South Korea and U.S.-led allied forces during the 1950-53 war that was halted by an armistice but no peace treaty.

BTS has yet to respond to the comments.