Shown above is the head office of Yanolja in Seoul. The firm said that SoftBank invested 2 trillion won in the travel platform. Photo courtesy of Yanolja

SoftBank invests 2 trillion won in Korea’s travel platform

Yanolja said on July 15 that SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, one of the world’s top tech-focused investment funds, had invested 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) in South Korea’s travel platform.

Observers point out that Yanolja follows suit of Coupang, which received around $3 billion investment from SoftBank and went public on the New York Stock Exchange early this year (See Korea News Plus article on Feb. 13, 2021).

Yanolja also prepares for initial public offering (IPO), and observers expect that it would be New York.

“Coupang’s value once topped $100 billion in New York. That would have been impossible in Seoul. Yanolja is expected to opt for New York,” Prof. Seo Yong-gu at Sookmyung Women’s University said.

“U.S. investors love technology companies, and SoftBank is well aware of that. For SoftBank, both Coupang and Yanolja would be lucrative investments.”

SoftBank acquired around 33 percent of Coupang, which is valued at about $23 billion as of July 16. This means that its return on investment is more than 700 percent.

Established in 2005 as a budget hotel-booking system, Yanolja has worked on the software of property management. Now it competes with such powerhouses as Oracle.

Of note is that SoftBank founding CEO Son Jung-eui, or Masayoshi Son, is a third-generation Korean who was naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 1990.

By contrast, Prof. Sung Tae-yoon at Yonsei University said that it remains to be seen how Yanolja will decide.

“Yes, Yanolja may be able to get a higher valuation in New York. But the company should take stricter responsibility there at the same time,” the economist said.

Focusing on leading-edge technology

SoftBank Investment Advisers Managing Partner Greg Moon pinned his hopes on such programs as Travel Super App, which includes accommodation, leisure, transportation, and restaurant.

Globally, the company strives to expand in cloud-based businesses.

“Powered by AI, we believe Yanolja is a leader in transforming the travel and leisure industry in South Korea through its Travel Super App approach,” Moon said.

Yanolja CEO Lee Su-jin said that the firm will cooperate with SoftBank to achieve its goal of connecting the international travel and hospitality markets through cutting-edge technology.

“We will accelerate digital transformation in this sector as the leading global hospitality Tech Company and Travel Super App, by fully leveraging our unique technological capabilities,” he said.