Editor’s take: The week that was — March 15-20

The 1,000% surge in the value of bitcoin so far in 2021, which took it past the $61,000 mark last weekend, would have surprised the cryptocurrency’s own investors. Yet, we were once again reminded of its volatility this week as rumours emerged that India is considering a stringent law banning the trading in, and possession of, the digital token.

The news sent the price of bitcoin tumbling. If the ban becomes law, India would be the first major economy to make holding cryptocurrency illegal. Even China, which has banned mining and trading of digital coins, does not penalise possession.

In other markets, however, the frenzy around the digital asset continues.

Coinbase Global Inc, the largest US cryptocurrency exchange, said this week that recent private market transactions had valued the company at around $68 billion this year ahead of a planned stock market listing. Its shares in the private market have jumped nearly 13-fold in the space of a few months.

In Singapore, the blockchain platform Zilliqa launched a strategic annual investment fund to invest up to $5 million in 15 companies building on its platform.

Regulatory action in China, too, made headlines this week, albeit in a different sector.

Beijing continued its clampdown on online platforms, tightening scrutiny over live streaming e-commerce platforms, and supposedly expressing misgivings about Alibaba’s media assets such as the South China Morning Post.

Investors in Ant Group, whose much-anticipated IPO was scuppered by regulatory action in November last year, now value the fintech firm at over $200 billion — about a third above Ant’s valuation after its last fundraising in 2018.

Now, moving on to other top stories and exclusive news that DealStreetAsia tracked this week.

Digital banking in Indonesia

As we’ve been reporting of late, Indonesia’s digital banking scene has been witnessing a major overhaul with many tech giants showing interest in acquiring stakes in banks.

Even as we learnt that Facebook-backed Indian social commerce player Meesho exited Southeast Asia’s largest market, there were deals and developments galore in this space in the past week.

Financial technology startup Brick announced raising an undisclosed amount of seed funding from various investors, including US-based Better Tomorrow and local investment firm Prasetia Dwidharma.

Indonesian online peer-to-peer lending firm Investree is seeking to collaborate with a digital bank to expand its base of lenders for SME financing.

Batumbu, the Indonesian arm of Singapore’s SME financing platform Validus, received regulatory approval from OJK to operate as a licensed digital lending platform.

Also this week, the Sharia-compliant peer-to-peer (P2P) lender ALAMI Technologies acquired the Sharia rural bank PT BPRS Cempaka Al-Amin.

Top deals — announced and in the works

Funding activity in Southeast Asia stood at $162 million in February, a 42% decline from January’s $278 million. There were 53 VC deals in the month — a tad higher than January’s 51 deals, showed data compiled by DealStreetAsia. Startups in Singapore were the most active.

Singapore-based innovation intelligence company PatSnap raised $300 million in a Series E round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Tencent Investment.

Singapore’s co-living startup Hmlet is in talks to raise a $25-million round led by an EDB investment arm. The company is said to be offering an interest rate of as much as 10%, pegging it at a valuation cap of $200 million.

Ascendas Reit, Singapore’s largest listed business space and industrial real estate investment trust, has proposed to acquire a portfolio of data centres in Europe for $672 million.

In India, Leap Finance, a fintech platform for Indian students pursuing international higher education, has raised $17 million in a Series B funding round by Singapore-based Jungle Ventures.

In China, AiForward Tech, an Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT), based smart community solution provider, closed a Series A round at nearly $77 million.

Guoquan Shihui, a Chinese supermarket chain that offers hotpot and barbecue ingredients, has secured $300 million in a Series D round.

Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings Limited led a $50 million new funding in Shanghai-based Duckbill Inc., bringing the total corpus raised by the container truck fleet operator to nearly $100 million.

Chinese internet security solutions developer ThreatBook completed a Series E round raising a corpus of $77 million led by CITIC Group’s CITIC Private Equity Funds Management (CPE).

VC fundraisings and fund deployment

Nearly three years after foraying into venture investing, Indonesian unicorn Gojek’s investment arm Go-Ventures is planning to complete the deployment of $100 million across 17 investments by the end of the first quarter (2021).

The corporate VC arm is making investments from a corpus of around $175 million, which has been raised from external investors as well.

TVM Capital Healthcare (TVMCH), the UAE arm of German investment firm TVM Capital, is raising a total of $500 million across two separate funds targeting to invest in the Middle-East and Southeast Asia.

ADB Ventures, the Asian Development Bank’s impact venture capital fund, has co-led investments in two Indian startups – electric vehicle maker Euler Motors and energy management startup Smart Joules – marking the first investments from its $60-million debut fund.

Early-stage Indian VC Ankur Capital closed an intermediate round of its Fund II at about $45 million, receiving fresh commitments from received fresh commitments from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD).

In China, Source Code Capital, a Beijing-based venture capital (VC) firm that has backed tech companies like TikTok owner ByteDance, is seeking to raise a total of $1 billion for two new funds.

In India, Eximius Ventures, a micro venture capital firm, announced the first close of its maiden fund of $10 million, which it aims to invest in early-stage startups with about $300,000 equity cheque per startup.

IPO news

Indian unicorns and new-age companies are increasingly warming up to the idea of listing their shares in the US through SPACs, reported our India desk.

Yet, there’s no dearth of more conventional IPOs.

National Grid Corp. of the Philippines has picked banks to work on its IPO and has increased its targeted size to at least $1.5 billion, paving the way for the biggest listing in the nation’s history.

Vietnam’s startup Bamboo Airways is aiming to list in the third quarter on either the Hanoi Stock Exchange or the Hochiminh Stock Exchange.

South Indian gold retailer Kalyan Jewellers’s IPO was oversubscribed by just 1.28 times, a sign of tepid interest among investors spooked by a drop in gold demand.

In Hong Kong, Baidu Inc has raised $3.1 billion in its Hong Kong secondary listing, according to a filing. The retail tranche of the deal was about 100 times oversubscribed, a sign that the desire of Hong Kong’s retail investors to buy into new stock market transactions shows no signs of slowing.

Chinese video streaming platform Bilibili Inc. received a green light from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for a proposed secondary listing.

Megvii Technology Ltd. is poised to become the first major Chinese AI startup to go public after it filed for a Chinese Depositary Receipt offering on Shanghai’s Star board this week.

Chinese e-commerce platform Dmall has hired Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan for a US IPO of over $500 million.

Tuya Inc., a software company backed by New Enterprise Associates and Tencent Holdings Ltd., is on track to raise $915 million in a US IPO priced above its marketed range.

Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing is accelerating plans for an IPO to as early as next quarter to capitalise on a post-pandemic turnaround. It is seeking a valuation of $62 billion.

In other news

After a lull in M&A activity last year, 2021 has begun with a bang for dealmakers in India. Sixty-six transactions, worth a combined $7.9 billion, were closed during January and February 2021, compared with $6.9 billion and 80 deals in the first two months of 2020, according to data available with research firm Venture Intelligence.

Startups operating in Southeast Asia’s sunrise logistics tech sector are gearing up to witness increased action amidst the new normal brought in by COVID-19, sparking investor interest in the sector. The trend has gained momentum from traditional businesses forced to digitalise their transport operations.

Switzerland-based Partners Group, which will be one of the asset managers for Malaysia’s Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) $600 million Shariah-compliant private equity fund, sees rising interest in Shariah-compliant private equity investment.

The group says it has benefitted from the diversified private equity investments.

The PE-VC industry in Malaysia may see a comeback in investment activity this year backed by government initiatives and with businesses showing signs of recovery. The VC and PE industry in Malaysia saw a 41% decline to $81.2 million in new investments in 2020, data from the Securities Commission (SC) Malaysia’s latest annual report showed.

Lastly, Ushopal, the Chinese brand accelerator for foreign beauty brands, sees promise in the country’s luxury beauty market. Spending is being spearheaded by the post-1990 generation, its vice president for brands William Lau told DealStreetAsia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.