Cho Si-young and Cho Jeehyun
In an Amazon-like outreach, South Korea’s largest chat platform operator Kakao Corp. is reportedly going after Market Kurly, a rising online door-to-door grocery service, to expand its portfolio after it added an internet bank.
According to investment bank industry sources on Sunday, Kakao has been contacting and meeting major shareholders of The Farmers, the unlisted owner and operator of the online grocery store Market Kurly.
Alpenroute Asset Management and Sophie Kim, Market Kurly founder and CEO, owned a 28.2 percent stake and 27.9 percent stake, respectively, of the company as of the end of 2017. Their shares are believed to have dropped to around 10 percent after new shares were issued to UTC Investment, LB Investment, and global venture firm Sequoia Capital.
A Kakao official admitted it has been talking with shareholders of The Farmers, but added it was early to speak of the development.
Kim said the company was seeking various partnerships but denied the talk of stake sale. Industry sources, however, believe Kim’s stake is too small to block the sale if other shareholders agree to do it.
Market Kurly, launched by Sophie Kim in 2015, has grown sharply amid a rise in health-conscious, single-living households in Korea. Its revenue jumped 46.6 billion won in 2017 from 3 billion won in 2015 with over 600,000 service users. The company could be worth 200 billion won.