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Korean car-sharing startup SOCAR has filed for an IPO

·3-min read

SOCAR, a south Korean car-sharing startup, has filed for an initial public offering, announced on Wednesday by Korea Exchange. The details -- the number of shares to be offered in the IPO and the price range -- have not yet been determined, said a spokesperson at SOCAR.

SOCAR has reached approximately $834 billion (1 trillion won) valuation after raising $50.7 million (60 billion won) in October 2020. The company has raised a total of about $275 million since its inception in 2011, the company spokesperson confirmed. According to media reports, SOCAR’s estimated valuation is to be $2.5 billion (3 trillion won) after the listing in the first half of this year.

Its previous investors include SK Holdings, Bain Capital, Premier Partners, SoftBank Ventures Asia, Altos Ventures, KB Investment, Stonebridge Ventures, LB Private Equity, SG Private Equity and more.

The company plans to launch a transportation super app this year that will provide all-in-one mobility services like car sharing, electric bike sharing, parking lot search, car hailing, train reservation and more, Jaewook Park, CEO of SOCAR, said in early December at the company's press conference. Park also said SOCAR would replace a fleet of its vehicles with zero-emission, including electric or hydrogen-powered cars, by 2030 and strengthen its autonomous cars business.

SOCAR will accelerate to make additional acquisitions and advance its technology with the IPO proceeds, Park said. The company already completed two acquisitions last month -- South Korean online parking platform Modu Company and electric bike rental platform Elecle. SOCAR also invested in autonomous driving startup RideFlux in 2018.

The 11-year-old firm started the car-sharing service with 100 rental cars in Jeju in 2011 and launched its mobile app in 2012. SOCAR acquired VCNC, a Korean mobile messaging app platform, in 2018 to operate van-hailing service Tada. (The startup, however, had to cease its van-hailing service in 2020 because of South Korea’s revised law that restricts ride-hailing to only licensed taxis and limits rental car services from offering drivers, with the exception of vans with 11 to 15 seats.) Last October, SOCAR sold a 60% stake in the ride-hailing arm to Viva Republica, the Seoul-based fintech company behind Toss.

In 2018, SOCAR set up a Malaysia-based subsidiary SOCAR Malaysia, which has raised a total of $73.2 million so far.

The competition of the mobility platform industry in South Korea has intensified as local car-hailing companies such as Kakao Mobility and TMAP Mobility actively expand their business in the country with ambitions to become the mobility super app. In October, Uber Technologies also joined the race by forming a joint venture company with TMAP Mobility, owned by Korean telco giant SK Telecom, to offer ride-hailing service in South Korea.

Kakao Mobility reportedly plans to go public in two years while TMAP Mobility aims to list by 2025.

The company spokesperson noted that its car-sharing peers also include Zipcar, Turo and getaround.

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