Kakao Piccoma, a Japanese online animation firm, has reportedly pushed back its plans for a share listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, previously indicated for December this year. The company hopes that the delay will help it hold on to a $6 billion valuation.

The company is jointly owned by Kakao, the Korean tech and messaging giant, and Kakao Entertainment, with shareholding respectively 73% and 18%. Piccoma raised finance last year though a private share sale that brought in Anchor Capital, valued it at JPY847 billion ($6.17 billion at current exchange

News of the delay was reported by the Bloomberg agency and multiple Asian financial sources.

“Piccoma plans to go public, but details of the IPO, including the timing, continue to be under review, a company representative said without elaborating,” Bloomberg said.

The expected delay reflects weakening investor sentiment towards the tech sector, which has seen Asian giants Alibaba and Tencent humbled and Coupang, Korea’s leading e-commerce firm and a significant VOD player, lose nearly two thirds of its value since a New York IPO last year.

Financial reports suggest that Piccoma can afford to delay its stock listing because it has been profitable since 2020. But fresh capital would help it in its ongoing battle with messaging app Line for leadership of Japan’s online manga market.

Webtoons, comic strips designed for consumption on smart phones, are believed to have originated in South Korea in 2003. But they found Japan to be a fertile market, thanks to the country’s long tradition of manga (comics) and anime (animated series and films).

Digital manga sales soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. And Piccoma’s monthly readership hit a June 2022 high of 9.5 million, compared with about 2 million in August 2017. But the growth surge has slowed and the cost of marketing to and acquiring new users has risen.

That is leading Korean and Japanese comics firms to target overseas markets, where the webtoon phenomenon is at an earlier stage and growth comes more cheaply.