Kakao’s income surges as founder pledges giveaway


Seoul, South Korea—The operator of South Korea’s biggest mobile messenger KakaoTalk posted coronavirus-boosted record quarterly profits Tuesday, a day after its billionaire founder pledged to give away more than half his wealth.

The pandemic has killed more than two million people worldwide and wreaked havoc on the world economy, with intensive lockdowns and travel bans imposed around the globe for several months.

But it has also seen many tech companies boom, including South Korean chip makers Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix.

Operating profit for Kakao Corp surged 88.3 percent year-on-year to 150 billion won ($134 million) in the final three months of the year, the highest for any quarter, the company said.

Sales were up 45.7 percent on-year at 1.24 trillion won.

The earnings announcement came a day after Kakao’s founder Kim Beom-su sent a message to employees telling them: “I have pledged to donate more than half of my assets throughout my life to solve social issues.”

The move by Kim, who is worth around $9.5 billion and among South Korea’s five richest people according to Forbes, is an unusual one for the world’s 12th-largest economy, where business is dominated by sprawling family-controlled conglomerates.

Kakao, founded in 2010, has a range of mobile offerings and its flagship messaging application is installed on more than 90 percent of phones in South Korea.

Forbes described Kim as the nation’s “biggest gainer” during the coronavirus pandemic, with social distancing measures driving up use of its messaging app, e-commerce platform and online games.

For the 2020 full year, the firm’s sales jumped 35.4 percent to reach an all-time high of 4.15 trillion won, with operating income also at a record and net profits of 167 billion won.

Kakao Corp. shares finished up 0.88 percent in Seoul.

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