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Asia tech goes big on public markets
Asia Tech Review: 15 March 2021
This week is big money week across Asia with public market listings and listing plans dominating the news.
South Korea’s e-commerce market leader leader Coupang saw it shares pop an incredible 80% after its US IPO; Japan’s Rakuten raised $2B from Tencent and Walmart; Baidu and Bilibli are among the Chinese firms headed to Hong Kong for secondaries; and Grab, Southeast Asia’s highest-valued private tech company, could go public via a SPAC at a valuation of $40B.
There’s also more from Ant Group post IPO, India startups are raising in big numbers, as usual, and Pakistan has once again blocked TikTok.
Btw, to mark our one year anniversary at The Ken Southeast Asia we’re bundling some of our best reporting together and making it available to read for free. The first narrative—SEA is the future—landed week and it can be read by anyone with a registered account. More coming this week.
See you next week,
Fall guy: Ant Group CEO Simon Hu has resigned—Chairman Eric Jing takes his role for now. Ant of course suffered a colossal blow when its long-anticipated IPO, which was set to raise a record $34.5B, fell apart at the last minute
The WSJ has a longer read on how China plans to “tame” Alibaba
But the regulatory headwinds don’t just impact Ant or major shareholder Alibaba, Tencent too is reportedly facing a clampdown on deals and services in the fintech space
China plans to limit tax breaks and incentives for homegrown semiconductor companies so as to “weed out” the weaklings and focus on those making breakthroughs that can help it narrow the gap on global leaders
Animation and video platform Bilibili plans to raise $3B in a Hong Kong listing—it’s already listed in NASDAQ so this would be a secondary. SCMP has a detailed story of what Bilibili is and how it grew
Baidu is also raising from Hong Kong, but in a scaled down IPO that could fetch $3B
WeLab, one of Hong Kong’s few unicorns, raised $75M for its digital financial services—it was led by Allianz X, a venture capital arm of European financial giant Allianz
Facebook has canceled plans to run a fiber cable through Hong Kong because, well, Hong Kong just isn’t the same place it was:
“Due to ongoing concerns from the U.S. government about direct communications links between the United States and Hong Kong, we have decided to withdraw our FCC application,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. “We look forward to working with all the parties to reconfigure the system to meet the concerns of the U.S. government.”
India is reportedly planning to propose a cryptocurrency ban that could mean fines for anyone trading or holding Bitcoin and other digital assets
Meanwhile, Walmart and Amazon could be hit hard by other proposed regulations designed to deter digital monopolies—the irony here is that the government allowed Reliance Jio to suck up tens of billions of dollar from investors… that seems like a digital monopoly in the making
Ola is making a big (PR) push to become an electric vehicle player—it plans to make an EV every 2 seconds at its new plant, which seemingly every tech publication sent a reporter to check out recently
Social network Kutumb, which is less than one year old and a little like Reddit, is reportedly in talks to raise up to $20M from Tiger Global at a valuation of $170M—fast work or bubble?
Social commerce platform Trell is reportedly in talks to raise $25-30M at a valuation of $400M
Fintech app Zeni, founded by serial entrepreneur brothers, raised $11.5M in a Series A
Accommodation provider Stanza Living is reportedly raising $120M led by Middle East-based investors, Sequoia is already a backer
PUBG Mobile maker Krafton invested $22.4M in India-based esports startup Nodwin Gaming
Openspace, the Singapore fund best known for its early investment in Gojek, closed its third fund at $200M
Grab could take the SPAC route to going public in the US, according to reports. This is a little surprising as you’d think that Southeast Asia’s highest-valued tech company is capable of running a regular IPO given the scale of its business, profile of its investors etc. Either Grab is mulling a very good offer (reportedly it is looking at a $40B valuation—higher than its private valuation of $16B) or going to IPO is a lot, lot harder for Southeast Asian businesses than Sea makes it look.
East Ventures has taken sole control of its growth fund which had been set up with SMDV and Yahoo Japan Capital—it’s apparently designed to bring more speed to the fund
Grab and Gojek are both now investors in Indonesia’s Linkaja—Grab led an investment in the financial services platform, which maintains close ties to banks, last November beating off Gojek at the same time. But now Gojek is too after completing an undisclosed deal. It makes sense as Linkaja needs partners, and both ride-hailing firms want to keep relationships with banks and state-owned enterprises, both of which back Linkaja
E-commerce leader Rakuten has raised $2.2B after it issued new shares to Walmart, Tencent and Japan Post—it’s not immediately clear how the two overseas investors will work with Rakuten, but Japan Post is already planning to work on logistics and payment tech. Rakuten is being chased by Amazon among others in Japan
Coupang went public with a massive IPO that brought in $4.6B and valued the e-commerce firm at $109B as stock soared 80%+ on its trading debut as investors see growth:
In 2020, Coupang’s net sales jumped 91% year-on-year to $11 billion. Net losses narrowed to $567.6 million from $770.2 million posted in the prior year.
But, for all its impressive numbers Coupang has questions to answer around whether it can be profitable. There’s also concern around the way it treats its workers, as scandals around poor working conditions and tough work rose during the initial Covid-19 outbreak
The country has blocked TikTok (again) on account of what it sees are “immoral and objectionable” videos inside the service. 33M of Pakistan’s 100M internet users were said to be registered on the app
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