Editor’s take: The week that was — Jan 18-23

The swearing in of Joe Biden as the 46th US president was arguably the biggest news story of the week, with its ripples being felt in Asia.

Many in China, in particular, are now hopeful of drawing a line under four years of bitter tensions with the US.

The three NYSE delisted Chinese telcos —  China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom — have all filed to repeal the decision by the Donald Trump administration, Caixin reported.

In a similar vein, Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Chinese technology giant Huawei, which has been at the receiving end of Trump’s executive orders, said the US remains a “beacon of technology”. This was the company’s first public word after Biden’s inauguration.

Blackstone Group Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said he expects Biden to take a “softer tone” towards China, and that there will be lower tensions between the two countries.

Even as investors look for clues into Biden’s Asia policy, the year 2021 is expected to be one of rebound and renewal.

With this in mind, DealStreetAsia’s Research & Analytics team has put together a report titled “Outlook 2021: Ten Themes to Watch for in SE Asia”. The top themes include consolidation among unicorns and soonicorns, the SPAC fever hitting Asia’s shores, and new offshoots in digital banking.

Read the full report for an early peek into how 2021 could pan out. Some of these themes, such as unicorn consolidation, have already begun to play out.

Talks between Indonesia’s homegrown giants Gojek and Tokopedia, for instance, are moving forward. Our reporters on the ground got wind that the two are now exploring various options including setting up a holding company structure that will house the unicorns as independent entities. Tokopedia and its related entities may also sell their 41% stake in payments firm OVO as part of the potential deal.

Here are the other top stories of the week:

IPO news

Beijing-based vaping firm RLX earned the distinction of being the first Chinese company to list in the US in the Biden era, raising $1.4 billion in the IPO. Shares of the firm jumped 86% on debut, giving it a capitalisation of nearly $35 billion.

Singapore-based unicorn Grab, too, is said to be exploring a US listing this year, encouraged by robust investor appetite. The IPO could raise at least $2 billion, which would likely make it the largest overseas share offering by a Southeast Asian company.

HH&L Acquisition, a Hong Kong-based blank cheque company that focuses on Asia’s healthcare sector, is also seeking to raise up to $300 million in a US IPO.

Chinese online short video company Kuaishou will open the books for its Hong Kong IPO on Jan. 24, to raise at least $5 billion, valuing the company at about $60 billion.

WeTrade Group, a membership-based platform for e-commerce services in China, is looking at raising up to $121 million as it moves its listing from the US OTC board to the Nasdaq Stock Market.

In India, meanwhile, Nazara Technologies became the first gaming technology company to seek a market debut in the country.

Toyota-backed air taxi startup Joby is also exploring a deal to go public through a SPAC merger at a $5 billion valuation.

Weekly deal round up

The post-pandemic themes of fintech, healthtech, and edtech continued to witness a spate of deals. In Southeast Asia, fintech had topped the deal scorecard in 2020.

TNG Digital Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian e-wallet operator owned by CIMB Group and China’s Ant Group, is in advanced talks with investors to raise at least $150 million to fund expansion plans, while PE firm Navis Capital Partners completed an investment in Singapore-based fintech solutions firm Moneythor Pte Ltd.

Indonesian P2P lender Akseleran is in talks to raise up to $20 million in its Series B round, with participation of existing investor Beenext.

Mynt, the Philippine fintech backed by Ant Group, is eyeing a further round of fundraising to secure a $1 billion valuation in the fast-growing digital banking market.

In Vietnam, the genetic testing firm Gene Solutions is in talks to raise $20 million in a new funding round.

Singapore-based private asset trading platform iSTOX closed its Series A round at $50 million with fresh investment from Japanese strategic investors.

In India, digital payments startup BharatPe raised about $20 million in debt funding from venture debt firm Alteria Capital and ICICI Bank, while HR technology platform Darwinbox closed a $15-million funding round led by Salesforce Ventures. Gurugram-based kids learning platform Udayy raised $2.5 million seed funding led by Alpha Wave Incubation (AWI).

In China, edtech startup Erwan bagged nearly $100m in Series D, E rounds, while Shanghai-based online English learning platform Jiliguala completed its nearly $100 million Series C round from investors that included Tencent.

Interest in fintech was also underscored this week by TikTok-owner ByteDance foraying into digital payments by launching Douyin Pay, squaring off against the likes of Alibaba, and Tencent.

In the ecommerce and logistics sector, Australian logistics property group LOGOS is set to acquire a 60% stake in Global Vision Logistics, an associated company of Malaysian realty company Aspen for $73 million.

Indian commerce platform Dunzo raised a fresh round of $40 million from investors including Google and Lightbox.

On the fundraising trail

The post-pandemic scenario is compelling PEs and VCs to see their business in a new light. The Vietnam Investments Group (VI Group), which has largely backed consumer-focused non-tech businesses, is now planning to pursue more tech investments to cash in on the digitalisation boom, it told DealStreetAsia this week.

Others in the Asian region are also readying dry powder.

San Francisco-based tech investment firm Crescent Cove Advisors plans to raise $200 million via a SPAC targeting Southeast Asian tech companies.

Asia Partners — the Singapore-based PE firm launched by former Sea Ltd president Nick Nash and Naspers B2C e-commerce division’s former CEO Oliver Rippel — has made another close of its debut fund at $282 million

Malaysia’s Creador is launching its fifth fund in March, targeting to raise $650m.

Netherlands-based early-stage fintech investor Finch Capital is looking at a co-investment arrangement with Central Capital Ventura, the VC arm of Indonesia’s Bank BCA, for its Southeast Asia fund targeting a corpus of $75 million, DealStreetAsia learnt this week.

Godrej Fund Management, the Singapore-based real estate PE arm of the Godrej Group, reached the first close of its second closed-end office development fund at $250 million. The fund will develop Class-A office assets across India.

In India, Fireside Ventures, which invests in consumer startups, closed its second fund at $118 million, while global early-stage VC Antler said it plans to invest over $100 million across Indian technology startups in the next four years.

Tata Capital Growth Fund II, the second growth capital PE fund of the group’s financial services business, has raised $170 million.

Tech-focused Chinese VC Matrix Partners China has raised $1.2 billion for its flagship venture investment vehicle.

Asia Capital Real Estate secured $320m from Neuberger Berman’s arm Almanac.

US pension fund LACERA said it will commit $100m to Chinese biomedical VC firm Lilly Asia Ventures.

Finally

This week we also released a few videos from our 2020 Asia PE-VC summit including experts’ take on investment opportunities in Vietnam, and digital adoption in Indonesia. You can watch them here during the weekend.

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.