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Naver-backed Webtoon shares jump 14% in Nasdaq debut

(Reuters) - Shares of online comics platform Webtoon Entertainment rose as much as 14.3% above their initial public offering price in their Nasdaq debut on Thursday.

The stock opened at $21.30, giving the company a valuation of $2.71 billion, and traded as high as $24. It was last trading at $22.86 just after midday.

The company, backed by South Korean tech giant Naver, raised $315 million, selling 15 million shares in the IPO at the top end of its marketed range of $18 to $21.

The strong debut augurs well for companies looking to go public as the summer IPO market warms up to new issuers.

Los Angeles, California-based Webtoon, is a storytelling platform that hosts thousands of stories spanning over 20 genres, including fantasy, romance, comedy and horror.

The company was founded in 2005 as a side project of CEO Junkoo Kim, then a search engineer at Naver.

Webtoon sold about 2.4 million shares to Naver at the IPO price in a concurrent private placement for proceeds of nearly $50 million.

Webtoons are digitally created short-form comics optimized for reading on mobile. The format, which began in Korea two decades ago, is cheap to produce and can be created by anyone with a tablet.

The format, which builds on a rich history of visual storytelling in Korea, has gained popularity globally following the success of K-pop, K-dramas and other Korean cultural exports.

Some of the popular webtoons include Lore Olympus - the romantic retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone - and The Sound of Your Heart, a semi-autobiographical story.

Over the past decade, dozens of webtoons have been adapted into popular dramas and movies such as Hellbound, Bloodhounds and Sweet Home on streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.