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SPACs are back in Asia... maybe
Plus: China now effectively controls Apple's App Store and more
This week we’re focused on a small but important new requirement from Apple that means the Chinese government will control new App Store listings in China. We ask whether SPACs are back after Singapore got what could be its first SPAC listing deal. And President Biden’s actions to limit China’s access to semiconductor tech is grating top chip firms that need to do business in China.
All that and more this week.
We’ll be back next week,
News in focus
Are SPACs coming back?
This week saw two significant announcements around SPACs—remember this trend from a couple of years ago which enabled companies to go public more quickly than the IPO route.
SPACs emerged during a tech stock bull market, with Grab (above) in particular going public through a record $40B deal, but it actually makes more sense in a depressed market. There are many companies that have raised significant venture capital and are looking for exits but the current conditions don’t favour a regular IPO and acquisitions are more cost-conscious. That could open the door to SPACs, which tend to compromise on valuations (lower) but with the benefits of exiting to public markets:
17LIVE, a streaming service that suffered a botched IPO in 2018 (despite ringing the NYSE bell), will finally go public thanks to a merger with a SPAC from Temasek-backed fund Vertex, VTAC.
This time, the deal is for a listing in Singapore—which will be Singapore’s first SPAC deal since it allowed the listing type in 2021—which will value 17LIVE at $676M (S$925.1M). 17LIVE claims it generated revenue of $363.7M in 2022 and has been profitable since 2020.
If this SPAC can be successful—or perhaps, not as disastrous as others like Grab—it could open a window for companies that are stuck after raising enough venture capital. There are other SGX-listed SPACs which are looking for the right deals to merge and go public.
Elsewhere, SparkLabs, a Korea-based investor and startup accelerator, launched a $100M SPAC on the NASDAQ. It is hunting for a target to acquire, which it stated is ideally a business valued at $1B or up.
Biden administration China push upsets chip giants
Big chip firms Nvidia, Intel and Qualcomm are pushing back against the Biden administration’s efforts to introduce further crackdowns on the sale of semiconductor technology to Beijing link
US politicians are pushing for restrictions around RISC-V chip technology, a piece of open source technology that can be used as a key ingredient for anything from a smartphone chip to advanced processors for artificial intelligence—aka a free alternative to ARM’s expensive chip design link
Apple tightens requirements for China Apple Store listings
After plenty of speculation, Apple has now enforced new checks on apps that list on the Apple App Store in China which requires them to show a Chinese government licence first.
As we wrote last week, these introductions are part of a tightening that critics worry will give the government significant control over the content of the App Store:
Apple has been told to remove ‘illegal’ apps from China before—such as VPNs in 2017—but this time around Apple will not be able to offer apps from companies that haven’t registered with the government, and thus must comply with censorship and data rules. The obvious examples are Facebook, Twitter and other services banned in China which would remove a loophole granting China-based users access. But beyond that, it means the Chinese government will effectively govern the App Store. Apps that don’t comply won’t be listed. Right now, China can (and as discussed has) had apps removed. That’s already problematic, but not allowing them to even exist is worse still.
ByteDance reportedly made a profit of $6B in the first quarter of 2023, nearly doubling over the last year thanks to cut-costing measures link
TikTok is testing a $4.99 ad-free subscription tier link
US senators are examining TikTok’s hiring of several ByteDance executives from China link
Belgium’s intelligence service has been monitoring Alibaba’s main logistics hub in Europe for espionage following suspicions Beijing has been exploiting its growing economic presence in the west link
How the explosive growth of fast fashion apps like Shein and Temu are changing the face of China’s export machine and making life easier for an army of small businesses to sell overseas link
TikTok users are trying to earn money from the service’s Creator Fund by reposting viral Chinese videos for international audiences link
Venture capital firm CMCC Global launches US$100M Web3 fund amid industry slump link
Hong Kong police and The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) have formed a task force to track suspicious crypto activities after the collapse of crypto exchange JPEX link
Netflix continues to lag its competitors in India—the US firm has 6.5M subscribers in India, versus 20M for Prime Video and more than 40M for Disney+ Hotstar link
Disney is reportedly in talks with Adani and Sun to either sell its India-based assets or explore a joint venture link
Google will begin to make its Chromebook laptops in India through a partnership forged with HP link
Korean games publisher Krafton India launched a gaming incubator to expand the local ecosystem link
Indian fintech unicorn Slice has received approval to merge with North East Small Finance Bank and offering banking services link
Troubled delivery platform Dunzo has seen 5 representatives from its board leave in recent months amid legal notices and pending taxes link — at the same time, its valuation may drop to $200M (down from $800M) to raise $35M via a rights issue link
Oyo is talking to Apollo for a $660M refinance deal as its IPO continues to be delayed link
Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund has invested nearly $600M in Reliance Retail at a $100B valuation link
Millions of TikTok Shop sellers in Indonesia have been ‘stranded’ after the service was closed in the country link
South Korea's Hana Micron plans to invest $1B in Vietnam chip production link
Coinbase, Ripple, Blockchain.com and Revolut are among 14 companies to be awarded a full payments licence to operate in Singapore by the city-state's central bank link
Indonesian peer-to-peer lending platform Investree raised a $231M Series D led by JTA International Holding in Qatar and existing investor SBI Holdings—JTA and Investree will launch a JV in Doha; Investree’s last round was $23.5M in 2020 link
In boost for semiconductor ambitions, Japan has approved $1.3B in subsidies for US chip firm Micron’s plant in Hiroshima link
South Korea is considering a $50.5M fine against Google and Apple for abusing their dominant positions with app stores link
Several Taiwanese technology companies are helping Huawei build infrastructure for an under-the-radar network of chip plants across southern China link
Taiwan will probe suppliers helping Huawei build chip plants under the radar across southern China link
Can Taiwan’s chip giant TSMC overcome a culture clash in the US? link
Elsewhere in Asia
Pakistani e-commerce logistics startup Rider, which is backed by Y Combinator, is looking to acquire rival BlueEx, which is part of publicly-listed Universal Network System Limited link
China-based spies are hacking East Asian semiconductor companies, report says link