BTS pop band triggers $1.7bn rout after announcing solo stint

Shares of the agency that manages the pop phenomenon tanked a record 28 percent on news members will pursue solo projects.

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks past an advertisement for K-pop boy band BTS in Seoul, South Korea.
In the nine years since their debut, BTS has racked up record-breaking hits and video views [File: Bloomberg]

Shares of Hybe Co., the agency that manages the South Korean pop phenomenon BTS, plunged by a record after the band said they’ll focus on individual projects for a while.

Hybe sank as much as 28% on Wednesday in Seoul, headed for its lowest close on record since its trading debut in October 2020 and wiping out as much as $1.7 billion in market value. The stock is down nearly 60% so far this year, significantly underperforming the broader equity benchmark amid uncertainties about the future of the BTS juggernaut.

Hybe's shares have sharply underperformed the Korean benchmark in 2022

In the nine years since their debut BTS has racked up record-breaking hits and video views, including the fastest accumulation of No. 1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 since Michael Jackson. The group also became the first Asian group since 1963 to top Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 chart with their English-language single “Dynamite.” At the end of May the seven members met with Joe Biden in the White House and spoke out against hate crimes.

Bangtan Boys, more commonly called BTS, made the announcement to pursue solo projects in a video posted on YouTube, which has already got more than 10 million views. The singers said the time apart would be healthy for the band and urged fans not to view the development as negative.

“I felt like I needed time to spend on my own,” the group’s leader RM said in the hour-long video, which features the band discussing past successes as well as each other’s quirks while sharing food and wine. “It’s not like we’re disbanding,” member Suga said.

BTS will start a new chapter, carrying out their individual work as well as group activities, Hybe said in a statement, according to Yonhap News. Shares pared losses following the report.

Cultural Loss

BTS is so huge that a government minister fretted that it would cause a “cultural loss for mankind” if the band had to suspend its work to enlist. Military service is mandatory for all men in South Korea, which is still technically at war with North Korea.

The band’s oldest member Jin, 29, needs to sign up before the end of this year unless a related law is revised to allow for an exemption.

Worries about the band’s future had battered the shares even before Wednesday’s plunge as the agency relies on the hitmaker for most of its sales. The slump means that Hybe has given up almost all of its gains since its trading debut.

Hybe may face sharp downgrades to its profit and revenue estimates this year and next year, said Lee Hyein, an analyst at Yuanta Securities Korea Co.

If Hybe confirms that BTS won’t resume concerts this year, its revenue for this year will likely be 25% lower than previously estimated, while its profit will be cut as much as 33%, Lee wrote in a note.

Source: Bloomberg