Vietnam 2016: Startups see M&A action from overseas buyers

Vietnam’s startup space witnessed a spate of M&As in 2016 dominated by overseas buyers seeking to tap into the south-east Asian country’s nascent but growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

According to data compiled by DEALSTREETASIA, Vietnam recorded 10 announced investments and acquisitions by companies this year.

Foreign buyers were engaged in six transactions five of which included Singapore-based travel ticketing startup Easybook acquiring Pasoto, Propertyguru making strategic investment into Batdongsan.com.vn, China’s Asia Innovations Group acquiring Big Cat Entertainment, Japanese system integration company NTT Data taking over fintech startup Payoo, and WebTVAsia acquiring a big stake in METUB.

In November, VNPT E-Pay announced it had sold a major stake of 62.25 per cent to UTC Investment. While UTC Investment is a Korea-based private investment firm, Vietnamese market observers have raised doubt that Chinese fintech giant Alipay was behind the deal.

In terms of business vertical, most of the targeted startups are B2C companies or operate in the fintech and e-commerce areas.

Meanwhile, DEALSTREETASIA has also learnt about an undisclosed transaction between Malaysia’s eStream and Apzon who formed a cross selling joint venture in January.

Thus, the total number of 11 deals in 2016 is almost double of 2015’s record of 6 deals across e-commerce and IT solution sectors.

They were Hubert Media investing in search engine developer Coc Coc, Yello Mobile’s subsidiaries in CleverAds and Websosanh, Garena in Foody, transcosmos in Hotdeal, and Vietnammm in Foodpanda.

These are investments and buyouts by companies to Vietnam-based startups, while there were also two major acquisitions of Vietnam-connected companies, the $260 million acquisition of wearable device maker Misfit by Fossil Group and 7-digit takeover of social app Tappy by Weeby.co. These are US startups founded by Vietnamese entrepreneurs.

In terms of value, excluding the Vietnam-connected company acquisitions, the $14 million investment by the German media firm in Coc Coc was the largest funding known in this corporate M&A category in 2015. Most of the deal values were undisclosed in both 2015 and 2016, but it is rumoured that UTC Investment paid nearly $38 million for a controlling stake in VNPT E-Pay, making it the biggest in 2016.

According to available data, the next large investment is $17 million for 38 per cent of e-commerce site Tiki by Southeast Asia’s oldest unicorn, Ho Chi Minh City-headquartered VNG Corporation.

Meanwhile, e-payment service Payoo (acquired by NTT Data) is also predicted to be a high-value asset, given the big sums investors have paid for Vietnamese fintech startups recently ($28 million for e-wallet MoMo, $20 million for personal finance platform MobiVi, and apparently $38 million for VNPT E-Pay).

Another transaction that is expected to conclude in 2017 is of Credit China Fintech Holdings which announced it will purchase 51 per cent of Amigo Technologies for $12.73 million.

“IPO is a tough market for tech companies in Vietnam particularly, so a more viable way is to seek buyers through M&A,” Dzung Nguyen, Cyberagent Ventures‘ head for Vietnam and Thailand markets, told DEALSTREETASIA in a published interview.

“For Cyberagent Ventures in particular, we have recently exited to corporates who search for regional growth. The exit opportunities are many more in that space,” he added.

Mai Duy Quang, a founder of several businesses and a senior executive of the Topica Founder Institute, had also pointed out that the increasing involvement of established companies in the startup space was an exciting development in 2016, and said he hoped the tie will get closer.

In addition to being customers or partners of startups, large companies can also become investors to create exits to investment firms, say experts. The rise in corporate investments in 2016 is suggesting that trend.

DEAL TIMELINE

January

Edtech group Topica acquired incubator hub.IT

– Malaysia’s eStream acquired enterprise solutions provider Apzon to form cross selling JV

May

– VNG acquired 38% of Tiki for $17m

June

– NTT Data acquired remaining stake at Payoo

– Foody invested in Jamja

August

– Easybook took over Pasoto

September

– FPT acquired an ad company to establish FPT Adtrue

October

– Propertyguru acquired part of stake at Batdongsan.com.vn – Cyberagent Ventures exited

– Asia Innovations Group acquired Big Cat Entertainment

November

– UTC Investment acquired 62.25% of VNPT E-Pay – deal value rumoured to be $38 million

– WebTVAsia acquired undisclosed stake in METUB

 

Also read:

M&A more viable exit route as IPO market is tough: Dzung Nguyen, Cyberagent

Vietnamese startups not ready for later stage investment: Mai Duy Quang, Topica

Corporates should partner with VCs to help startups grow: FPT’s Truong Gia Binh

Vietnamese startups close over 60 deals in 2015