K-pop Giant Hybe to Raise About $380 Million for US Deals

(Bloomberg) -- Hybe Co., the South Korean music agency behind BTS and Ariana Grande, is seeking to raise around 500 billion won ($380 million) to fund acquisitions in the US and expand its business beyond K-pop.

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The Seoul-based company is in talks with investors to secure equity financing, according to people familiar with the matter, and is open to having both strategic and financial partners. The size and timing of the deal could change, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are early. Hybe’s shares fell as much as 5.1% in Seoul on Friday.

After the pop group BTS made Hybe founder Bang Si-hyuk a billionaire, the producer has been pushing for acquisitions of labels overseas that can diversify the business and reduce his reliance on one act. He is seeking to turn Hybe into a global music power, the first K-pop agency to compete with Western players for artists.

A Hybe representative declined to comment.

Hybe already acquired Ithaca Holdings LLC, the music company led by manager Scooter Braun. Ithaca owned a management company that represents Justin Bieber and Grande, as well as the country record label Big Machine. Earlier this year, Hybe acquired Quality Control, an Atlanta-based record label that releases music from Migos and Lil Baby.

In March, Bang teased that the company is looking at top-tier record labels in the Latin music market and seeking to buy one or two US music brands housing up-and-coming producers.

BTS Mogul Hybe Eyes US Targets After Failed Takeover Bid for SM

The size of the deal was once discussed in the market to be around one trillion won but it is closer to around 500 billion won, reflecting current market situations, according to the people.

When the K-pop giant started mulling a fund raising round earlier this year, some of that money was going to be used in Bang’s efforts to acquire SM Entertainment, one of his biggest competitors. Hybe originally planned to secure around 40% of shares in SM Entertainment but it backed away after a month-long battle with Kakao Corp., South Korea’s largest mobile services operator.

Backed by Saudi’s wealth fund, Kakao was more determined to acquire SM to expand international business through K-pop content and raise its valuation ahead of a potential listing. But the fierce fight has unlocked the value of K-pop peers as investors globally are betting on more deals and continued growth in the industry.

Despite a slowdown in the broader market, K-pop stocks have surged this year. Hybe still holds about an 8.95% stake in SM Entertainment that it has pledged to sell under a deal with Kakao, and it has secured hundreds of billions of won in cash.

Under Bang’s mission to make K-pop mainstream in the world’s largest music market, Hybe and Universal Music Group are preparing a new international girl group together. Another pillar of its global expansion is its fan community platform called Weverse, which has nearly 10 million users globally. Weverse is adding more foreign artists such as AKB48 and planning to add more US talent.

--With assistance from Youkyung Lee.

(Updates with share action from the second paragraph)

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