With an election day during the first half of the month, and the Thanksgiving break in the second half, no one expected much US IPO activity in November. And since there was nothing exciting in sight for the European and the main Asian markets, it was the right time to look at more exotic opportunities.
The South Korean Exchange (KRX) is a relatively small exchange with a total market capitalization of $1.2 trillion, and comprising of a little over 2,000 listed companies. When compared with the $3 trillion market cap of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the $20 trillion of the NYSE, for example, it may not seem like fertile ground for IPO prospects. In addition, the KRX did not have a great ride in 2016, with a near flat year-to-date return for the KOSPI, The Korea Composite Stock Price, the index of all common stocks traded on the Stock Market Division.
Even the South Korean political scene doesn’t look all that more welcoming than the financial scene. The impeachment of President Park Geun-hye is on its way amid street protests and ministers’ resignations. Added to that are concerns about the protectionist policies the U.S. president-elect Donald Trump might be planning, including his foreign policy for the Korean peninsula.
Nevertheless, two deals offered for listing on the KRX captured the attention of our investment manager.
The first was Samsung Biologics, the Samsung Group’s biologic-drug-manufacturing arm. In raising USD 2 billion, it easily became the largest IPO of the year on the Korean Stock Exchange.
The second was the famous American based but Korean owned compact equipment manufacturer Doosan Bobcat. It raised a more modest USD 790 million, and was the 2nd largest IPO this year on the KRX. However, neither IPO could hardly be considered small by any measure, and our analysis of the book building gave us the confidence to make a play on both of them.
These two IPOs brought the Fund superior returns of +5.15% and +24.33% respectively.
In a future of uncertainty and disappointment with the US and European IPO markets, our first South Korean IPOs provide an interesting extension of our footprint in Asia, and proves that our strategy of market diversification is the right path.
Our Year-to-Date Total Return is now +46.07%.