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South Korea’s K Bank aims for digital currency-fueled IPO in 2022

South Korean bank startup K Bank has said it is aiming at an IPO in 2022, amid a surge in customer demand driven by increased use of digital currency.

The bank, which is the primary fiat onramp for cryptocurrency exchange Upbit, is said to be experiencing rapid growth from its services, which senior executives think could see the bank turning a profit in 2022.

According to CEO Lee Mun-whan, this would pave the way for a public listing for the Internet-only bank, Korea Times reported.

K Bank suffered a difficult 2019, culminating in the banning of Korea Telecoms from becoming a major investor in the company. A significant regulatory tussle followed, in part responsible for a KRW100 billion (US$89 million) loss on the year.

However, as the fiat onramp for one of Korea’s ‘big four’ digital currency exchanges, the bank has seen renewed fortunes, and now boasts BC Card, a subsidiary of Korea Telecoms as its largest shareholder.

Since the resolution of shareholder issues, the bank has also been able to raise KRW400 billion (US$356 million) in additional capital. K Bank says it is now focused on growing its capital base to over KRW1.5 trillion (US$1.3 billion).

Baek Kyoum Kim of blockchain investment group Hashed said the accelerated IPO plans were driven by the growth in digital currency users accessing Upbit via the bank’s services.

“Upbit’s main KRW fiat on-ramp provider KBANK is accelerating its IPO schedule thanks to explosive growth through new crypto user onboarding… added $2B+ to AUM just in Feb 2021…No wonder why all banks feeling big FOMO on crypto.”

Since March 2020, new laws in Korea have mandated real-name accounts for digital currency trading. As a result, exchanges must work with banks like K Bank to ensure the use of valid, real-name accounts for trading.

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