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Stock price recovery ‘possible’: Kakao CEO nominee

Kakao’s new CEO nominee Namkoong Whon speaks during an online press conference on Thursday at the Kakao headquarters in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province. (Kakao)
Kakao’s new CEO nominee Namkoong Whon speaks during an online press conference on Thursday at the Kakao headquarters in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province. (Kakao)

Kakao’s new CEO nominee Namkoong Whon said Thursday that he wishes to restore the company‘s stock price at over 150,000 won ($124.60) per share during his two-year term amid investors’ growing concerns over its underperforming stocks.

“We will be able to see (Kakao‘s stock price) to reach 150,000 won (per share) again if (we can) restore the market trust,“ Namkoong said during an online press conference. “I hope to see a boost in stock price within my two-year term,” he added.

The remark came after the company has been losing around 40 percent of its share value since July. The tech shares have been falling rapidly in particular after losing market confidence over a series of mishaps involving its executives.

Executives including former CEO nominee Ryu Young-joon offered to resign after instigating public outcry for exercising their stock options worth 90 billion won.

Namkoong was named to fill in the leadership void in January after Ryu resigned. His nomination is subject for approval in a board of directors‘ meeting slated for March.

The nominee, meanwhile, said that the company will launch metaverse platforms that allow open chatting communication across borders, expanding its footing in the global market. Metaverse refers to virtual communities that let users interact in real time.

“Up until now, Kakao’s success has depended heavily on the domestic market -- connecting friends and family in Korea through the powerful messenger app KakaoTalk,” he said.

“But that portion takes up less than one percent of the total of six to seven billion people in the world. Our goal is to target the rest of the 99 percent, the non-acquaintance base communication, through the metaverse in the global market.”

Namkoong said Kakao will create a text-based metaverse platform, citing his understanding of metaverse as somewhat different from the market’s point of view, which values user interaction with 3D avatars.

Kakao is on the move to launch an open chatting service for both domestic and international users who share common interests. For instance, K-Pop fans can communicate on Kakao‘s metaverse platform by chatting and sharing viral memes and videos of the idols they support, the company said.

Namkoong said the firm is planning to launch a roleplaying chatting service as well. Users can have a humanlike conversation with an AI-powered digital human developed by Kakao Brain, the AI technology research and development arm of Kakao.

Citing this year’s slogan, “Beyond Korea, Beyond Mobile,” Namkoong said the main goal of Kakao is “going global.”

“Among the total of 174 subsidiaries, 42 of them are already based overseas -- most of them in Japan and Southeast Asian countries. Webtoon and game businesses in Japan, in particular, have brought huge success,” Namkoong said.

To accelerate its global business, Kakao is considering adopting top-down management of business strategies.

For instance, Kakao can come up with a joint management system between Kakao Japan’s Piccoma webtoom platform and Kakao Games Japan in terms of their business funding strategies, Namkoong said.

Namkoong also mentioned Kakao’s Corporate Alignment Center, the new control tower that oversees the group’s affiliates, led by former Kakao Commerce CEO Kim Sung-su and former Kakao Entertainment CEO Hong Eun-taek.

“CAC will be on the vanguard of Kakao’s risk management and social contribution. As the new CEO, I will also try to make the best for our customers, shareholders, staff and executives,” Namkoong said.

By Byun Hye-jin (hyejin2@heraldcorp.com)
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