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Shares in firm behind SKorean hit BTS soar in trading debut

Thursday, October 15, 2020 | Kim Tong-Hyung And Juwon Park, Associated Press

Big Hit Entertainment Ltd.’s Chairman and CEO Bang Si-Hyuk, fourth from left, poses with other participants for the media during the listing ceremony of the company at the Korea Exchange in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. The company, that manages boy band BTS made its market debut amid criticism by Chinese internet users after the group’s leader thanked Korean War veterans for their sacrifices. (Korea Pool/Yonhap via AP)

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, soared in their trading debut Thursday in Seoul.

Big Hit’s solid debut after an IPO that netted more than $800 million was widely expected by analysts given the loyalty of the fan base to 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 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 and closing at 258,000 won ($225).

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.”

BTS debuted in 2013 and has a legion of global supporters who call themselves the “Army.” It became the first K-pop act to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart last month with their first all-English song “Dynamite.”

The band — consisting of J-Hope, RM, Suga, Jungkook, V, Jin and Jimin — has performed in sold-out arenas around the world and was even invited to speak at the U.N. General Assembly last month.

Big Hit’s stock market debut came just 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.

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