South Korean pop group BTS triggers $1.7 billion share price drop with solo work announcement

The stock has fallen nearly 60% so far this year, significantly underperforming the broader equity benchmark amid uncertainty over the future of the BTS juggernaut. 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.” In late May, the seven members met with Joe Biden at the White House and spoke out against hate crimes.

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

“I felt like I needed time to myself,” frontman 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 dissolving,” member Suga said. BTS will begin a new chapter, carrying out their individual work as well as group activities, Hybe said in a statement, according to Yonhap News. The shares pared their losses following the report.

BTS is so huge that a government minister has expressed concern that it would cause “cultural loss to humanity” if the group were to suspend work to enlist. Military service is compulsory for all men in South Korea, which is still technically at war with North Korea.

The oldest member of the group, Jin, 29, must register before the end of this year unless a related law is revised to allow an exemption. Worries over the group’s future had rattled shares even before Wednesday’s plunge, as the agency relies on the hitmaker for most of its sales. The slump means Hybe has given up almost all of its earnings since its commercial debut.

Hybe could face sharp downward revisions to its earnings and revenue estimates this year and next, said Lee Hyein, analyst at Yuanta Securities Korea Co.. If Hybe confirms that BTS will not resume concerts this year, its revenue for this year will likely be 25% lower than previous estimates, while its profit will be reduced by 33%, Lee wrote in a note.

Karen J. Nelson