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HYBE Revenue Falls Sharply, Gets Strong Debuts by TWS and ILLIT

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K-pop giant HYBE posted its lowest total revenue in two years as its recorded music segment sank to its lowest level in seven quarters, the South Korean company announced Thursday (May 2). 

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HYBE had first quarter revenue of 360.9 billion won ($271.5 million), down 12.1% year over year and the lowest since posting 285 billion won ($214.4 million) in the first quarter of 2022. Operating profit fell precipitously to 14.4 billion won ($10.8 million), down 72.6% from the prior-year period. 

HYBE’s share price was barely affected by the slowest quarter in years. The share price initially rose 1.7% to 205,500 won ($149.23) but my midday had fallen to 201,500 ($146.33), down 0.2%. The stock is down 13.7% year to date, however, and fell 12.6% last week following news that HYBE will report the CEO of its ADOR imprint, Min Hee-jin, to the police for “breach of trust and other related allegations.”

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), a measure of profitability that strips out non-cash items, was 39.8 billion won ($29.9 million), down 45% year over year and the lowest since the first quarter of 2021. 

Concerts revenue of 44 billion won ($33.1 million) was up 74.5% year over year. Although that was the biggest year-over-year increase of any category, the first quarter of 2023 was abnormally slow. HYBE’s latest quarter was on par with 45.3 billion won ($34.1 million) of concert revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021, the first quarter the company had performances after COVID-19 restrictions shut down the touring industry. 

Recorded music, the company’s largest segment at 40.2% of total revenue, fell 21.3% to 145.1 billion won ($109.2 million). HYBE successfully debuted two new groups during the quarter. Sparkling Blue, the debut EP by PLEDIS Entertainment boy band TWS, sold 260,000 units in its first week for and accumulated 500,000 units in the first nine weeks of release. Girl group ILLIT’s EP, Super Real Me, released through BELIFT LAB, sold 380,000 units in its debut week and reached the 500,000-unit mark in just four weeks. The single “Magnetic” debuted at No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in April. 

Merchandising and licensing fell 11.9% to 60.7 billion won ($45.7 million). Contents fared worse, dropping 29.8% to 61.1 billion won ($46 million). 

Weverse, HYBE’s social media platform, saw its monthly active users (MAUs) decline for the second quarter. After reaching a peak of 10.6 million MAUs in the third quarter of 2023, MAUs fell to 10.1 million in the fourth quarter and 9.2 million in the first quarter. Both average revenue per paying user and payment amount fell below levels reached in 2022 and 2023; HYBE does not provide specific numbers for either metric. 

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