BTS Mogul Hybe Eyes US Targets After Failed Takeover Bid for SM

(Bloomberg) — Hybe Co., the label behind global sensation BTS, is hunting new targets in the US after dropping a bid to acquire K-pop rival SM Entertainment Co.

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Hybe’s billionaire founder Bang Si-hyuk said he’s looking at top-tier record labels in the Latin music market, as well as one or two US music brands housing up-and-coming producers. Strengthening the firm’s position in major markets is a priority, Bang said.

“Many more acquisitions and investment announcements are coming this year than you might think,” Bang said at a forum hosted by a South Korean journalists’ club on Wednesday.

This is the first time Bang has spoken of Hybe’s plans after the company backed away from a month-long battle to take over SM. Hybe had faced off with internet giant Kakao Corp. for a controlling stake in SM, a pioneer in K-pop that both companies saw as key to driving the music genre into the global mainstream.

The companies’ bidding war almost doubled SM’s stock price to a record last week. But after Kakao — which operates Korea’s dominant messaging app — launched its offer at a premium to Hybe’s, Hybe decided to drop out.

“I’ve never thought of the takeover battle as a war,” Bang said, adding that the clash was not an all-or-nothing fight. “I’m especially pleased that we reached an agreement with Kakao over a platform business that’ll only grow.”

Hybe’s now back on a buying spree and focusing on expanding its global fandom platform Weverse. Bang said it will introduce more artists from the US to audiences in Japan and other countries, but declined to elaborate on Hybe’s partnership with Kakao and SM on platforms. The number of monthly active users will exceed 10 million this year, he said.

Hybe has been aggressively acquiring major music labels around the globe, echoing moves by giants Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment in their early days of expansion. The K-pop giant announced a $249 million deal last month to buy Quality Control, the Atlanta-based label behind rap stars Lil Baby and Migos. That followed a $1 billion acquisition of Ithaca Holdings LLC, the media group behind Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, in 2021.

“We’re in a crisis as we are seeing slowing growth in K-pop demand,” Bang said, adding that the genre’s appeal is falling in some Southeast Asian nations after BTS disbanded. “This doesn’t look like a temporary trend. We are going to find ways to make breakthroughs regardless of BTS.”

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