South Korean retail conglomerate Shinsegae is set to acquire a majority stake in Seoul Auction, according to a report by Dong-A Ilbo Last week. The Korean-language daily claims to have obtained inside information that Shinsegae is set to finalize a deal to spend 40,000 won per share, totaling around 230 billion won ($173 million) to acquire 36.1% of the largest auction house in the country. The group first secured 856,767 shares or 4.8% for 28 billion won ($21 million) in December 2021.
Shinsegae did not respond to requests for comment, while a spokeswoman for Seoul Auction declined to comment at this time.
Speculation about Shinsegae increasing its stake in the auction house has swirled since last year’s investment, fueled in mid-June when the retailer released this statement to Chosun Ilbo Business.: “We plan to acquire Seoul Auction, but for the moment nothing has been decided.”
According to Dong-A Ilbo’s report, Shinsegae’s acquisition of Seoul Auction is expected to expand the financial sector’s influence in the art market, and the conglomerate plans to relaunch Seoul Auction’s jewelry arm. The report adds that Shinsegae aims to expand its business of high-end and mid-range artwork as well as NFT.
The retailer has dabbled in NFTs before, selling through Opensea, and is also involved in Line’s NFT marketplace, Japan’s leading social media company, DOSI. Shinsegae and Seoul Auction began collaborating on the latter’s online art and NFT site, Blacklot.com, after last year’s investment. The retailer is also developing a metaverse and NFT art business with Korean tech company Hancom, according to Korea JoongAng Ilbo.
Shinsegae, or “new world” in English, is one of South Korea’s multi-pronged chaebol groups. Currently headed by Chung Yoo-kyung, it operates retail businesses, particularly department stores, in South Korea as well as internationally, as well as investments in other sectors, including a 67.5 % in Starbucks Korea. The group first established permanent exhibition space at its headquarters in 1966, according to the Chosun report, and the group now operates galleries in four of its locations, employing more than ten curators.
As of August 18, South Korean stock market KOSDAQ valued Seoul Auction at 368.8 billion won ($276 million), ranked 208. Dominating 38% of the Korean auction market, its current largest shareholder (with 13.3% ) is its manager Lee Ho-jae. , according to Dong-A Ilbo. Lee Ok-kyung, vice president and general manager of Seoul Auction and Seoul’s Gana Art Center, owns 6.4%. Founded in 1998, it opened a physical center in 2002 and expanded to Hong Kong in 2008, where it opened the SA+ showroom in 2018 at H Queens.