HYBE to fully acquire Enhypen label BeLift Lab in $100m+ deal (report)

Photo Credit: BELIFT LAB

South Korea-headquartered entertainment giant HYBE is taking full control of BeLift Lab, the label that’s home to K-pop stars Enhypen.

BeLift started out as a joint venture between HYBE and CJ ENM, owner of South Korean pay-TV music channel Mnet.

In a press release shared with MBW, HYBE says that it is acquiring a 51.5% stake in the label from CJ ENM, meaning that it will now own 100% of BeLift.

According to local reports, HYBE is buying CJ ENM’s 51.5% stake in BeLift for 150 billion South Korea Won (approx. USD $113.8m)

“HYBE will provide unparalleled support for BELIFT LAB and its artists,” said HYBE CEO Jiwon Park in a statement shared with MBW.

He added: “We will continue to pursue a partnership with CJ ENM on further promoting K-culture.”

According to HYBE, the deal “marks a significant step forward in HYBE’s strategic multi-label structure, expanding its content and artist portfolio even further”.

HYBE and CJ ENM launched BeLift in 2018 as a joint venture to develop a new boy band on Mnet’s audition show I-LAND. That band became the seven-member Enhypen, which has become one of K-pop’s biggest sensations of the past few years.

The band’s first album, Border: Day One, released in November 2020, had the highest first-week sales of any debut K-pop band that year. Its latest EP, Dark Blood, released in May of this year, debuted at No.4 on the Billboard 200.

The group recently embarked on their second world tour with two shows in Seoul that sold out “immediately upon general sale opening,” according to a statement from BeLift.

The announcement of HYBE’s buyout of BeLift comes two days after HYBE released its Q2 2023 earnings, which showed the company clocking a 21.2% YoY jump in revenue, to KRW 620.99 billion ($470 million).

Net profit for all of H1 2023 (the six months to end of June) exceeded KRW 1 trillion ($757 million) for the first time, the company said.

Net profit for Q2 jumped 18.7% YoY to KRW 117.4 billion ($89 million), while operating profit fell 7.9% YoY to KRW 81.3 billion ($61.6 million).

HYBE’s adjusted EBITDA fell by 1.2% YoY in the Q2 2023 quarter, to KRW 106.37 billion ($80.5 million).

The company’s biggest-selling artists in H1 were SEVENTEEN (8.87 million digital and physical albums), Stray Kids (6.07 million) and TOMORROW X TOGETHER (3.54 million).

The strong revenue numbers will likely assuage some concerns about the company’s top line, given that BTS, HYBE’s traditional biggest sellers, were on hiatus during the quarter due to some members of the band fulfilling their mandatory military service.

In 2018, BTS alone accounted for 1.7% of South Korea’s consumer goods exports.

“K-pop flourished in an environment where we could challenge ourselves. We should conserve the ground so that we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world’s major record labels.”

Jiwon Park, HYBE

The company’s latest earnings report is the first to reflect revenue from QC Media Holdings, aka Quality Control, the Atlanta-headquartered hip-hop label that HYBE acquired in Q1 for around $300 million. The company is home to prominent hip-hop acts including Lil Baby, Migos, Lil Yachty and City Girls.

It was the first major deal completed by HYBE America, led by prominent music exec Scooter Braun, whose Ithaca Holdings was acquired by HYBE for $1.05 billion in 2021. Braun now serves as CEO of HYBE America.

The acquisitions are part of HYBE’s efforts to expand beyond K-pop and its primary fan base in East Asia.

In June it was reported that HYBE is raising around KRW 500 billion ($382 million at current exchange rates) for further acquisitions in the US that would expand its business beyond K-pop.

Although it’s unknown at present what HYBE has its eyes on, its interest in hip-hop was confirmed with the Quality Control acquisition, and HYBE Chairman Si-Hyuk Bang told CNN earlier this year that the company is keeping an eye on the rapidly growing genres of Latin Music and afrobeats.

However, that doesn’t mean HYBE is taking its eye off of K-pop – as evidenced by the contentious battle between the company and Korean telco Kakao earlier this year for control of SM Entertainment, South Korea’s second-largest K-pop label.

Kakao emerged victorious in that fight, but HYBE continues working to expand its foothold in K-pop, including by bringing SM Entertainment acts onto its fandom platform, Weverse.

“K-pop flourished in an environment where we could challenge ourselves. We should conserve the ground so that we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world’s major record labels,” HYBE’s Park wrote in an open letter in February.Music Business Worldwide

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