September 12, 2016

Coupang Sales Growth Bolsters SoftBank’s Bet on Korean Retailer


Coupang’s net sales more than doubled in the first half of the year, helping to validate SoftBank Group Corp.’s bet that the South Korean web retailer will carve out a piece of Asia’s booming e-commerce market.

Net revenue rose to 868 billion won ($782 million) in the first half of the year, helped by retail expansion and increased margins, according to a financial document seen by Bloomberg. Gross merchandise volume climbed 26 percent to 1.8 trillion won in the period, the document showed.

SoftBank, whose investment in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has zoomed past $70 billion, backed Coupang in June 2015 with $1 billion in financing that valued the Seoul-based company at $5 billion. The bets are part of billionaire Masayoshi Son’s quest to replicate his success with Alibaba, an investment that started with a $20 million stake more than 15 years ago. SoftBank’s expansion in Asia has also led to deals with India’s Snapdeal and Indonesia’s Tokopedia.

The number of products offered by Coupang more than tripled to 700,000 items from a year ago, according to the document. The startup launched its Rocket Pay services and opened a fulfillment center in Korea, the first of two planned for this year, the document showed.

Matthew Nicholson, a spokesman for SoftBank, declined to comment. Coupang Chief Executive Officer Bom Kim didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment. Backers of Coupang include Sequoia, Greenoaks Capital and Rose Park Advisors.

The startup, founded in 2010, is burning through cash to expand and capture users as it competes with sites such as Ticket Monster, a Korean online retailer that’s owned by Groupon Inc., KKR & Co. and Hong Kong-based Anchor Equity Partners. Forward Ventures, Coupang’s parent, said its operating loss widened to 547 billion won in 2015, compared with a 121.5 billion won loss in 2014.

SoftBank’s e-commerce bet in India is under even more pressure. Snapdeal, which has struggled to narrow the lead of its home-grown rival Flipkart Ltd., now faces competition from Inc. In June, Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos pledged to invest another $3 billion in his company’s Indian operations, bringing the total to $5 billion.