Editor’s take: The week that was — Sept 7-12

This week, some of the big headlines revolved around COVID-19’s continued impact on the companies and geographies we cover.

Singapore’s state investor Temasek Holdings said the pandemic led to its portfolio witnessing a fall for the first time in four years to $223.73 billion for the financial year that ended March 31, 2.2 per cent lower than the previous year.

Beyond the headlines, we had a detailed take on the investment firm increasing its exposure to payments and fintech sectors as it seeks to benefit from an acceleration in the digitalisation of financial services.

Both Temasek and Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte are evaluating options to invest in the initial public offering (IPO) of Chinese financial technology company Ant Group, which could be the world’s biggest listing. (Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund PIF is also weighing a potential investment in Ant’s IPO).

In other news, the firm also emerged as the cornerstone investor in venture capital firm Emerald Technology Ventures‘s water impact fund, which closed at $100 million.

In an unrelated incident, amidst the debate on jobs and employment of foreign professionals in Singapore stemming from the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, Temasek has condemned Facebook posts targeting its Indian employees. “About 60 per cent of our staff across our 11 offices in eight countries are Singaporeans,” the state investor said in its response.

The other big development in the city-state involved life and general insurer Aviva offloading its local operations to a consortium led by Singapore Life for $1.98 billion. The consortium includes alternative asset manager TPG, Japanese insurer Sumitomo Life and other existing Singlife shareholders.

The positives for the city-state include Chinese tech and financial services firm expanding operations here as geopolitical tensions force them out of key markets such as the US and India. The latest is ByteDance, the owner of popular short-video app TikTok, which is planning to make Singapore its beachhead for the rest of Asia as part of its global expansion.

ByteDance continued to dominate headlines as the mid-September deadline to sell its US operations draws near. On Thursday, news reports quoted US President Donald Trump as saying the deadline for ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US assets would not be extended.

Apart from ByteDance, geopolitical tensions are set to have a significant impact on tech investments across the region, especially in India.

Ant Group, in the draft prospectus for its IPO filing, said it had ‘significant influence’ over India’s Paytm, forcing the latter to clarify as it attempts to diffuse the situation.

Responding to criticism, Paytm’s founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma said: “It is illogical to call Paytm a Chinese company when all our products and licences are governed by Indian regulators… On the topic of significant influence, by accounting standards, any company with more than 20 per cent stake in an establishment is considered to have a tag of ‘significant influence’.”

With India banning 118 Chinese apps, including PUBG (that was distributed by Chinese gaming firm Tencent Games), the South Korean maker of the popular mobile game is looking for a local partner in an attempt to resurrect its fortunes in its biggest market.

The pandemic has also forced Mobikon, a Singapore-based F&B customer engagement startup backed by Binny Bansal and several other investors, to hit the reset button and pivot to subscription management under a brand new name, Subtra.

IPO news

India’s public offerings space witnessed some momentum with Happiest Minds being among the most successful first-time share sales of this decade, while Route Mobile IPO was subscribed 4.21 times as of day two.

The country’s foodtech unicorn Zomato, which recently raised $102 million from US-based investment firm Tiger Global Management, said it plans to file for an IPO in the first half of 2021. We also reported that Zomato is in talks to raise funding from Mirae-Naver Asia Growth Fund, whose portfolio in India includes Ola Cabs and BigBasket.

India’s first unicorn InMobi will issue guidance on its IPO in a few quarters, its CEO Naveen Tewari said in an interaction. The country’s ban on Chinese apps and the lockdown have provided significant tailwinds to the startup’s B2C business.

South Korea’s Kakao Games made its stock market debut on Thursday following a record-breaking response to its IPO subscription last week.

Chinese firms that filed for a US listing this week include pet services firm Boqii, voice chat app Yalla, e-learning firm iHuman and data centre owner ChinData, while bottled water maker Nongfu Spring made its trading debut in Hong Kong.

Shanghai’s stock exchange has accepted JD.com Inc‘s fintech affiliate’s application for a listing on the Nasdaq-style STAR Market. JD Digits plans to raise $2.93 billion from the offering to replenish capital and to invest in areas such as big data, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

After stepping down as chairman and managing partner of L Catterton Asia in June, Ravi Thakran has floated a Singapore-based blank cheque company – Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp – which has filed for a $225-million IPO in the US, with plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

We also had a detailed analytical take on Malaysia’s IPO market. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on Malaysian equity markets and in the April-June quarter this year, not a single company listed on Bursa Malaysia. For the entire 2020, the bourse now expects 25 IPOs versus an initial forecast of 40.

Private equity

We had a slew of exclusives in the PE space in Asia, including US alternative investments giant Blackstone raising more than $1.9 billion for a set of Asia-focused real estate funds managed by its real estate investment arm Blackstone Property Partners Asia.

In terms of commitments from global pensions to Asia, California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) allocated a combined $1.3 billion to funds managed by private equity giant KKR & Co and Australian investment manager Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC).

San Francisco pension fund SFERS is putting in $25 million in Hong Kong-based PAG‘s special situations fund, and the latter is reportedly raising $1 billion for its Special Situations Fund III.

Morgan Stanley Investment Management has raised over $4 billion in assets for its new Global Change Strategy fund launched in partnership with Japan’s Mizuho Securities.

Among other prominent PE deals, Baring Private Equity Asia (BPEA) reached an agreement to acquire Nasdaq-listed IT services firm Virtusa Corporation in a transaction valued at about $2 billion, while Malaysia’s Navis Capital sold educational resources supplier Modern Star at an enterprise value of $600 million to Australian buyout major Pacific Equity Partners (PEP).

Our PE coverage this week included an interview with Pinal Nicum, a partner in the secondary investments team at PE firm Adams Street Partners. Nicum said deal activity in the secondaries market has rebounded quicker than it did after the financial crisis a decade ago as the market dislocation resulting from COVID-19 has thrown up significant opportunities for investors.

Greater China, too, had several PE developments.

Tech veterans in China, including former executives at Huawei and SMIC, are planning to launch a domestic replacement fund by the end of the year that aims to raise $731 million to help create the middle kingdom’s next tech giant.

Hong Kong-based real estate PE firm Gaw Capital Partners has raised around $1.3 billion for its internet data centre (IDC) platform.

Sinopec Capital, an investment arm of Chinese state-owned petroleum and gas giant Sinopec Group, has launched its first fund, which plans to invest $730 million in emerging industries.

Investment bank China Renaissance said its PE arm Huaxing Growth Capital had hit the final close of its third USD-denominated fund with over $600 million in committed capital.

Venture capital

Our VC scoops this week included Singapore and US-headquartered B Capital being in the market to raise a $350 million opportunities fund.

We also spoke with Singapore’s oldest VC firm, iGlobe Partners. Founded by Soo Boon Koh, the firm has invested alongside US heavyweights such as Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake Partners in the Valley and has also been doing deals in the city-state for the last two decades. iGlobe is currently in the market for its fourth fund.

Vietnamese VC executives Nguyen Manh Dzung (formerly with CyberAgent Capital) and Le Hoang Uyen Vy (ex-general partner at ESP Capital) have launched a new VC firmDo Ventures, that will invest at seed to Series B stages, and is seeking to raise $50 million for its debut vehicle.

In Indonesia, VC firm Indogen Capital has pushed the final close of its $50-million second fund to the end of 2021 from its initial target of December 2020.

We also took a close look at Indonesia’s stringent regulations for VC firms, and explain why its high paid-in capital requirements and capital gains tax norms are a turn off for potential LPs. The story is a must-read to understand why most local fund managers prefer to register their companies in Singapore or tax havens such as the Cayman Islands.

In India, Inflexor Ventures has hit the first close of its new technology fund. The firm’s target corpus for this vehicle is Rs 500 crore ($68 million), along with an additional Rs 200 crore greenshoe option.

Vertex Ventures China, part of Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings-backed Vertex Ventures, closed its latest RMB-denominated fund at 3 billion yuan ($438 million).

Deals

We tracked two new secondary transactions that saw new names joining the cap table of Indonesian ride-hailing giant Gojek.

Meanwhile, its rival Grab is reportedly in talks with Prudential PLCAIA Group Ltd and others as it seeks $300 million to $500 million for its financial services unit, which is estimated to be valued at $2 billion (pre-money).

Indonesian logistics startup Waresix closed a $100 million round from a slew of investors including SoftBank Ventures Asia, Indonesian conglomerate Emtek, Temasek subsidiary Pavilion Capital and EV Growth.

The other deal worth noting was Singapore-based B2B cross-border payments network Thunes bagging $60 million in a Series B funding round led by Africa-focused investment firm Helios Investment Partners, while existing investors GGV Capital and Future Shape doubled down.

Finally

I would like to leave you with some of the best analytical takes we carried this week.

After tasting success at home, South Korean food delivery unicorn Woowa Brothers has now set its sight on Vietnam. But is there room for Woowa-backed Baemin in Vietnam’s food delivery market? Read our analysis to find out.

Our analysis of China deals showed that one in every four transactions between January and July 2020 was closed by startups in the healthcare field. This detailed take explains why healthcare-related companies are expected to command investor interest in Greater China amid continued stock market euphoria.

Finally, we had this fascinating read from Nikkei Asian Review on SoftBank’s massive bet on digital payments in Japan. SoftBank has invested over $1 billion in PayPay and is betting that it can succeed in popularising mobile payments in a country where almost a dozen other competitors have failed.

Thank you for reading. The DealStreetAsia team has a great lineup of stories coming your way and I am excited about what we have in store for you.

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.