Logistics firm Flash Express becomes Thailand’s first unicorn after raising $150m

Source: Flash Express.

Thailand-based Flash Express has raised a combined $150 million in its Series D+ and Series E rounds, the company said in a statement.

The funding rounds valued the third-party logistics provider at over $1 billion, the company told DealStreetAsia without specifying the exact amount. This makes Flash Express Thailand’s first unicorn.

Flash Express’ Series D+ round was led by SCB10X, the venture capital arm of Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) with participation from Thailand’s Chanwanich Security Printing Company. The first tranche of the Series D round was in October last year when the company raised $200 million.

Its latest Series E round was led by the Chinese venture capital firm Buer Capital and existing investors SCB10X, Alibaba’s eWTP Capital, PTT Oil and Retail, and TCP Group’s Durbell. Krungsri Finnovate, the VC arm of Thai bank Krungsri, also participated in the funding round.

Flash Express' executives with several of the firm's investors. (From left to right) Sira Srisuksai, PTT Oil and Retail Business business development and innovation incubation department vice-president; Pitiporn Phanaphat, Flash Express' chief business development and financial officer; Komsan Lee, Flash Express' chief executive officer; Nucharee Yoovidhya, managing director of TCP Group; Sam Tanskul, managing director of Krugsri Finnovate. Source: Flash Express.
Flash Express’ CEO Komsan Lee (middle) with several of the firm’s investors. Source: Flash Express.

The latest rounds bring Flash Express’s total fundraising to date to $550 million.

Flash Express said the new funding will allow it to expand its operations, develop technology and enter other Southeast Asian markets. The company did not reveal which are the target locations. DealStreetAsia understands that it is in the process of applying for business licences in various countries.

The Ken reported in February this year that Flash Express had launched in Laos the previous month and is planning to enter Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam by 2022.

“We will concentrate on our original intention to begin business expansion in Southeast Asia first. [The] COVID-19 situation may be an obstacle for us, yet we will continue to move forward with an expectation for a solid development plan in Q4 2021 after some businesses are launched in Southeast Asia,” said Komsan Lee, CEO & founder of Flash Group in the statement.

Lee declined an interview request from DealStreetAsia ahead of the funding announcement.

Launched in 2018, Flash Express provides integrated logistics services targeting the e-commerce sector and claims to be the second-largest private express delivery company in Thailand, behind Kerry Thailand.

The company counts former Alibaba, Baidu, and SF Express executives on its management team. Co-founder and chief operating officer Weijie Di, for instance, is a former Alibaba executive.

The firm is also backed by several Chinese investors including the Alibaba-backed eWTP Capital.

It claims to deliver two million parcels a day, with 23 sorting centres, 1,300 distribution centres, and 10,000 service branches across Thailand. It also said that it has more than 15,000 trucks, vans and bikes, and 27,000 employees including couriers and delivery agents. It aims to increase its headcount to 30,000 this year.

By comparison, its main private-sector rival Kerry Thailand says on its investor relations page that it delivers 1.2 million parcels a day and has 15,000 service points. The Thai subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Kerry Logistics Network went public in December last year and reported a net profit of 303 million baht ($9.7 million) on the back of 4.2 billion baht ($134 million) in revenue in the first quarter of this year.

Flash Express declined to disclose its revenue or profit. Its chief financial officer Richard Tang told DealStreetAsia last October that the company “had reached the profit-making stage”. Other couriers operating in Thailand include state-owned Thailand Post, Singaporean firm Ninja Van, and Indonesia’s J&T Express.

Growing sector

Last year, Siam Commercial Bank’s Economic Intelligence Centre said in a report on Thailand’s logistics sector that increasing competition in the industry has reduced the average shipping rate from 35 baht ($1.12) per parcel in 2016-2017, to 19 baht ($0.61) currently, and is expected to drop further. It projected that the country’s logistics market would grow 35% to 66 billion baht ($2.12 billion) in 2020 primarily due to the rise of e-commerce.

The rapid rise of e-commerce, fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic that has restricted physical movement, is fuelling a boom in the logistics sector across Southeast Asia.

Indonesia-headquartered logistics firm J&T Express raised $2 billion in April this year ahead of a planned IPO in the US. Chinese PE giants Hillhouse Capital and Boyu Capital, as well as Sequoia Capital China participated in the round, which pegged the pre-money valuation of the firm at $6 billion, according to reports.

In another major logistics deal in the first quarter of this year, Indonesian last-mile delivery startup SiCepat Ekspres closed a Series B funding round of $170 million backed by a host of investors including Falcon House Partners, Pavilion Capital, and MDI Ventures.

Logistics firms in Southeast Asia topped fundraising by deal value in the March 2021 quarter this year, according to DealStreetAsia’s SE Asia Deal Review: Q1 2021 report. The sector was in the top 5 in terms of deal count as well.

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.