Editor’s take: The week that was – May 4-8

Major economic crises are often challenging to anticipate ahead of time, but once they hit, their impact tends to follow certain familiar patterns, especially when it comes to businesses.

In the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, aggressive cost-cutting led to many instances of layoffs. Those stories continue to emerge, with fintech firm Oriente confirming it has let go of a fifth of its staff since the fourth quarter of 2019.

But some attempts at damage control will eventually fail, and it’s not surprising that layoff stories eventually lead to articles about business failures. We had previously reported that Indonesia’s Airy Rooms had let go of staff; this week we learned that the Traveloka-backed startup will shut down for good.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, e-commerce startup Leflair has filed for bankruptcy.

The big picture

It’s important in times of upheaval and uncertainty to look at broader trends and changes to understand how the world is changing.

In the Philippines, top e-wallet providers are burning more cash and delaying their profitability timelines despite the crisis increasing the use of digital transactions. Meanwhile, the use of e-commerce and food and grocery delivery platforms has, unsurprisingly, soared during the pandemic.

Investors are looking closely at logistics startups in Indonesia, with last-mile specialist SiCepat Express and B2B platform Waresix understood to be in advanced stages of closing funding rounds.

German private equity (PE) platform Moonfare sees family offices driving PE investments in the Asia Pacific over the next six to 12 months in a bid to better diversify their portfolios.

An EY survey of senior corporate executives found high expectations of a merger and acquisition comeback in the next 12 months.

For under-the-covers consumer trends, check out Smile Makers and the good vibes they’re generating.

Regulators are keeping busy as well.

The Securities Commission Malaysia is giving digital payment channels a boost by opening the doors for capital market products to be accessed via e-wallets and e-payment platforms.

Vietnam is considering licensing social media networks.

Deals: Deeptechs and China consumer plays

China continues to dominate the megadeal market in Asia. Car trader Chehaoduo took $200 million from SoftBank Vision Fund and Sequoia Capital China in an extended Series D round, while blind box doll brand Pop Mart secured more than $100 million of PE capital ahead of an expected initial public offering.

In Singapore, fintech player Nium closed a round of undisclosed size that included Visa, BRI Ventures and other existing investors.

Cancer immunotherapy startup Hummingbird Bioscience secured additional funding in an extended Series B round from Heritas Capital and new investors. Biodegradable plastic manufacturer RWDC raised $133 million in two Series B rounds.

In Indonesia, business-to-business fast-moving consumer goods platform GudangAda secured $25.4 million in a Series A round led by Sequoia India and Alpha JWC, with Wavemaker Partners joining.

On the merger and acquisition front, Singapore-based ARA Asset Management and ARA founder John Lim jointly acquired a 52 per cent stake in non-bank crowdfunding platform Minterest.

Singapore-based financial product comparison site GoBear acquired end-to-end digital consumer lender AsiaKredit for an undisclosed sum.

Funds go to work

Funds are still getting ready to deploy.

South Korea’s DT&Investment is in talks with Japanese gaming company Colopl Inc.‘s venture capital arm to invest in Southeast Asia.

Dakota Ventures is committing to invest $1 million in synergistic and millennial-focused startups in Myanmar.

Impact investment firm One to Watch could get a 0.4 million euro ($438,075) grant from the Dutch development bank FMO to invest in accelerator programmes in Myanmar and Nepal.

Malaysia’s Permodalan Nasional Bhd plans to increase the global exposure on its portfolio to about 30 per cent by 2022.

In conversation with Sequoia and Vertex

On May 14, Sequoia’s Abheek Anand and Vertex’s Chua Kee Lock will discuss dealmaking during the current crisis with DealStreetAsia editor-in-chief Joji Philip. The webinar is open only to premium subscribers. If you haven’t registered, you should.

Have a good week 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.