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

In one of the most significant developments that unfolded last week, Southeast Asian ride-hailing unicorn Grab said its merger with blank-cheque company Altimeter Growth Corp has been delayed. The company can now complete the SPAC merger only by the fourth quarter of this year. It had previously said it was seeking to complete the transaction by July. In another SPAC-related news, B Capital Technology Opportunities has trimmed the size of its upcoming IPO in the US to $200 million from $300 million. The blank-cheque company formed by Singapore-headquartered VC firm B Capital disclosed that it has removed warrants from its offering. Meanwhile, Bridgetown 2 Holdings, a SPAC formed by billionaires Peter Thiel and Richard Li, is understood to be considering a merger with Singapore-based realty portal PropertyGuru. If talks fructify, the deal could be announced as early as July. A SPAC formed by Chinese co-working space provider Ucommune has filed for a $50 million US IPO to pursue prospective targets in Asia with a focus on e-commerce, new energy, enterprise services, education, and biomedical sectors. Deals corner In Malaysia, Creador picked up a 30% stake in Loob Holding, owner of Tealive bubble tea brand. Sources told us that the PE firm has invested 260 million ringgit ($63.1 million) in the company to facilitate its expansion. AirAsia Group injected $53.27 million in its financial services unit Big Pay Pte Ltd. The transaction is part of AirAsia’s three-pronged digital strategy formulated last year to help offset some of the COVID-induced losses. IT services company Nityo Infotech acquired a significant stake in Singapore-based fintech firm MatchMove for $100 million, pegging the latter’s valuation at $600 million. In Indonesia, fintech firm BukuWarung raised $60 million in a funding round led by US-based VCs Valar Ventures and Goodwater Capital, confirming an earlier story done by us. This marked the Series A round for the company. In yet another transaction in the archipelago, logistics startup SiCepat entered the electric vehicle business through a joint venture with NFC Indonesia, a subsidiary of the listed digital company M Cash Integrasi. The JV will pick up a majority stake in EV company Volta Indonesia Semesta. In China, crypto investment platform Kikitrade closed a pre-Series A extension round from British hedge fund billionaire Alan Howard. The startup plans to use the funding to ramp up its efforts to serve the increasingly tech-savvy young generations across largely untapped markets. Among other transactions clocked in the world’s second-largest economy, online car trading group Chehaoduo and home furnishing materials Chubby Bear raked in $300 million and $400 million, respectively. Live streaming app Kumu in the Philippines raised an undisclosed amount in its Series B round co-anchored by ByteDance-backer SIG and Singapore’s Openspace Ventures. The development was first reported by us in March. In Vietnam, South Korea’s STIC Investments has backed menswear brand Coolmate‘s pre-Series A round. Although the deal size was small, it goes on to highlight the firm’s increased interest in the country where its portfolio companies include Tiki, Go2Joy, and Ecotruck. Deep dives While crypto deals in Southeast Asia are up, will the rally last? As the prices of cryptocurrencies remain volatile, institutional investors have seemingly started to embrace them, validating their status as an emerging alternative asset class. Buoyed by these developments, crypto-related startups in Southeast Asia are seeing increased user traction and deal activity. In Malaysia, corporates are increasingly joining institutional VCs to fix funding constraints faced by startups. Big companies — from state-owned oil giant Petronas to the Sunway Group — have set up CVC units. This is even as the impact of corporate venturing is still at a nascent stage. Fundraising by startups in India fell by a sharp 56.7% in May as the country grappled with the deadly second wave of COVID-19 pandemic with several states imposing lockdowns. Startups raised $1.83 billion across 93 VC capital and PE transactions last month, data shows. In Vietnam, startup accelerators such as VIISA, Expara, Zone Startups, and ThinkZone, among others, have adopted different strategies to cater to the changing demands of founders in the burgeoning startup ecosystem in a post-pandemic world. The trend gathered steam as the number of startups applying for business acceleration programmes in the country witnessed a dip over the last year. PE exit value in SE Asia slumped from $18 billion in 2018 to $3 billion in 2020. The number of liquidity events also fell to eight deals last year compared to an average of 26 deals during the 2015-19 period, as the window of exit opportunities narrowed in the aftermath of the pandemic. We captured the reasons investors are increasingly finding it difficult to cash out profitably in the region and the road ahead. Candid chats Indonesia’s BRI Agro is set to raise capital for a digital bank spinoff and enter supply chain financing. Its CEO Kaspar Situmorang told us that the move will allow the bank to build a larger ecosystem of merchants, consumers and business partners as it gears up to facilitate loans for their everyday banking needs. Meanwhile, bookkeeping platform BukuKas co-founder and CEO Krishnan Menon explained to us the rationale behind onboarding angel investors in the startup’s later-stage rounds. “We are building a company for the next 20-30 years, aiming to transform SE Asia’s SME segment… Most of the angels have seen journeys similar or even bigger and there are points where we can leverage their expertise at all stages.” The startup raised $50-million in its Series B round in May. Jojo Malolos, CEO of Philippines-listed JG Summit‘s corporate venture capital arm, said the company is looking to secure a digital banking licence in the Philippines. JG Summit plans to roll out digital banking operations across the country over the next 6-12 months. Finally, in people news We were the first to cover the resignation of Temasek-linked executives from ONE Championship’s board. Fock Wai Hoong, managing director at Temasek Holdings, and Derek Lau, CEO of Heliconia Capital Management, a Temasek unit, were inducted in the mixed martial arts promoter’s board in July last year and in September 2016, respectively. In Indonesia, GoTo Group, the holding entity formed from the merger of the country’s most valuable tech companies Gojek and Tokopedia, appointed former OneConnect executive Jacky Lo as its chief financial officer (CFO). “The mission of empowering the bottom half of the population pyramid in Southeast Asia, it’s so powerful,” Grab’s Ming Maa said in an interview. In this profile, we chart his professional journey from a cautious investor to an optimist president. Maa leads the $12 billion company, along with co-founders Anthony Tan and Hooi Ling Tan.


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