Editor’s take: The week that was — June 14-19

We are back with our weekly wrap of significant developments and this week, the region’s unicorns continued to hit top headlines.

When Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab announced that it was delaying its highly-anticipated SPAC merger with US-based Altimeter Growth Corp, it raised more than a few eyebrows. In this analysis, we explore how Southeast Asian startups could possibly be perceived by the world as this high-stake deal pans out. At $40 billion, Grab isn’t just one of the world’s largest SPAC deals, it’s also the first in Southeast Asia to entertain a deal of this kind.

Grab’s future greatly depends on co-founder and 39-year-old CEO Anthony Tan, who will gain 60.4% of the voting rights despite a 2.2% ownership stake after the deal, Nikkei wrote in this analytical piece. Will he be able to build confidence among stock market investors, who might harbour governance concerns?

As Grab and some of the region’s most valuable unicorns inch closer to a public listing, mergers and acquisitions and investments by them are likely to pick up pace too. According to DealStreetAsia data, SE Asia’s unicorns inked at least 39 deals — 17 acquisitions and 22 investments — over the last 24 months. Some of the recent ones include Grab’s purchase of a 4% stake in Emtek; VNG Corporation’s investment in gifting platform Got It; and Gojek’s acquisition of a 4.76% stake in Lippo Group’s retail unit.

In Indonesia, e-commerce firm Bukalapak is keen to raise as much as $800 million in an IPO in August, Reuters reported, in what could be the first of the two major tech listings on the Jakarta bourse this year. A mid-year debut could see it become Indonesia’s biggest listing in 10 years. The unicorn is backed by big-name investors such as Microsoft, GIC Pte, Emtek and S Korea’s Naver Corp, among others.

Moving on to car marketplaces, SE Asian platform Carsome is in talks with investors to raise over $200 million in a pre-IPO round. The round could value Carsome at over $1 billion, making it the first Malaysia-born unicorn since ride-hailing giant Grab. The funding will help Carsome leverage new opportunities such as M&As as well as expansion into new markets such as the Philippines.

Singapore-headquartered peer Carro closed a $360-million Series C funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, making it the first automotive marketplace unicorn in Southeast Asia. Carro will use the funds to strengthen its market position and expand its offering across Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

In news from India, edtech major Byju’s surpassed Paytm to become the most valuable Indian startup after raising about $340 million in fresh funding at a valuation of $16.5 billion. Digital payments company Paytm is currently valued at about $16 billion. The capital injection is part of a $1.5 billion round that Byju’s started raising in April.

Byju’s raised over $1.18 billion in the last year alone. In April, it also announced the acquisition of Aakash Educational Services for about $1 billion in one of the biggest deals in the edtech space.

Fundraising trail

Singapore-based fund manager Venturi Partners has secured the first close for its India and Southeast Asia-focused consumer fund at $100 million. The fund has a targeted size of $150 million. The fund made its maiden investment in Livspace, an Indian online home design firm, in September last year.

Swiss alternative investment firm LGT Capital Partners made the final close for Crown Global Secondaries V at the fund’s hard cap of $4.5 billion.

Australia and Singapore-based investment firm Investible has raised A$35 million ($27 million) for the first close of its second early-stage fund. The technology-focused fund has a target of A$50 million.

Chinese investment firm Yingke PE has raised 1 billion yuan ($155.4 million) for a new RMB-denominated fund, bringing the firm’s total fundraising amount so far this year to over 13 billion yuan ($2 billion).

The Hive Southeast Asia, which was selected by the Malaysian government for its Dana Penjana National Programme, is targeting to make the final close of its seed fund at $18.23 million during the fourth quarter of this year.

Deep-dives & interviews

China is the new battleground for aggregators such as US-based Thrasio; Branded Group, co-founded by former Lazada CEO Pierre Poignant; and Singapore-based Rainforest on the prowl for direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands that sell on Amazon. Almost half of the top Amazon sellers are based in China.

Asian healthcare-focused private equity investor CBC Group says its strategy of building and backing biotech companies from scratch is driving better returns amid growing investor interest in the sector. CEO Wei Fu describes CBC’s strategy of building healthcare platforms, or incubating and building pharma startups as “picking the driver’s seat.”

Betting on the healthcare sector, Danish investor Novo Holdings – the wealth management arm of Novo Nordisk Foundation – is putting its money behind digital health platforms and scientific research in emerging Asia. There are currently 120 companies in its portfolio, including three in Asia – telemedicine platform Halodoc, precision drug firm Hummingbird Bioscience and medical device maker Esco Lifesciences.

German fintech startup Moonfare, which runs an online platform for individual investors to bet their money on a curated portfolio of private market funds, is planning to open an office in Singapore to ramp up its Asia operations. Moonfare has so far helped over 1,600 clients invest over $1.1 billion into funds managed by PE powerhouses such as KKR and Warburg Pincus.

Meanwhile, in May, risk capital investors in Greater China pumped in less than $5.1 billion in the startup ecosystem, recording an 8.9% dip in value from $5.6 billion in April. In terms of volume, as many as 122 deals were clocked last month versus 149 transactions in April, our proprietary deal data shows.

Deal news

Vietnam-based education group BHL Education is in talks with investors to raise about $20 million in new funding. The startup last raised funding from Singapore-based Heritage Capital in 2019.

Indonesian integrated fishery platform Aruna is said to be in talks with global investor Prosus Ventures to raise fresh funding in the region of $20-30 million. Prosus is likely to come on board as the lead investor in the round.

Private equity fund Excelsior Capital Vietnam Partners has announced its first investment in health and beauty retail chain Hasaki Investment Corporation. The Vietnam-dedicated fund is managed by APAC investment firm Excelsior Capital Asia.

Lastly, I bring you this analytical article on the future of food in Asia.

Are alternative proteins the next big food trend? Veteran investor and commodities trading guru Jim Rogers seems to think so. Last month, he put his name behind little-known Singapore startup Life3 Biotech that produces plant-based protein products. We deep-dive into the factors that are making this sector tick as well as the challenges ahead.

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.