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Naver Webtoon aims to go public in U.S. as early as 2025

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Naver Webtoon CEO Kim Jun-koo speaks at a press conference in the company's office in Pangyo, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [NAVER WEBTOON]
Naver Webtoon CEO Kim Jun-koo speaks at a press conference in the company’s office in Pangyo, Gyeonggi, on Tuesday. [NAVER WEBTOON]

Naver Webtoon is planning to go public in the U.S. stock market as early as 2025, according to its CEO Kim Jun-koo on Tuesday.

At a conference call in November, Naver CEO Choi Soo-yeon said that the company will “do its best” to make its affiliate a U.S.-listed company within a few years.

In May 2020, Naver Webtoon moved its headquarters to Los Angeles and formed its U.S.-based subsidiary, Webtoon Entertainment, which manages its overall webtoon operations and content platform business.

“We are not yet at the stage where we can mention the specifics related to the initial public offering,” Kim said Tuesday in a press conference in Pangyo, Gyeonggi. “However, we are aiming to be listed in two to three years.”

Naver Webtoon currently has 85.6 million monthly active users globally. Kim said that the company succeeded in bulking up the market size of its business in webtoons and web novels globally as their works began being adapted into secondary content, increasing the royalties that go straight to creators.

“This was possible because we branched our platform out overseas,” Kim said. “Fifty-two percent of the works currently being published under Naver Webtoon generate sales from overseas. As a result, we currently have 904 works each creating 100 million won [$74,700] and five works each creating 10 billion won.”

With multiple ways to secure profit derived from secondary copyrights, Kim said the company aims to have 2,000 works each creating 100 million won by 2028.

When the company began its profit-sharing model with its creators in 2013, yearly revenue was 23.2 billion won, according to Kim. The figure grew to 2.25 trillion won in 2022.

“Our profit model for creators’ works was only derived from the sales made off of the webtoons,” Kim said. “Now, ways to earn profit have diversified as secondary content are created based off of the original intellectual property [IP], from films, dramas, animated series, games, web variety shows and more. In line with the change, we now consider our platform to be a supporter and partner to creators that can help them access more business opportunities with their IP.”

“Back in 2013, there was only one webtoon that generated over 100 million won, with yearly sales of 23.2 billion won, which we thought was a significant figure. About a decade later, there are now 904 works generating over 100 million won.”

On royalties alone, authors take about 60 to 70 percent of the sales generated from their webtoons, Kim noted.

“So if a certain webtoon makes 100 million won annually, the author, on average, takes 60 to 70 million won in royalties,” Kim said.

During a press conference back in August 2021, Kim had mentioned that the highest-earning author made 12.4 billion won in royalties in a year.

However, Kim declined to specify how much the highest-earning author earned this time.

“The highest-paid author definitely makes much more than 12.4 billion won,” Kim said. “However, to protect the author’s privacy, we decided not to mention a particular figure anymore.”

BY LEE JAE-LIM [lee.jaelim@joongang.co.kr]