Category: Finance

Indian telecommunications firm Tikona Digital gets US$171 million loan from US govt agency

Telecommunications firm Tikona Digital has recently received a funding of US$171 million in the form of a commercial loan from Overseas Private Investment Corporation, an independent US government development finance agency, according to a report in The Economic Times.

The loan comes as a chance for Tikona Digital, providing the firm with the required liquidity for revival while putting talks of M&A with Telenor to rest.

There were reportedly talks of Tikona’s merger with Norway’s Telenor and leading Indian telecom player Airtel because of the 4G airwaves that it had bought in 2010. However, valuations have been an issue, according to a statement by an investment banker.

“This could be the company’s second coming with renewed interest in the telecom sector and its ancillaries,” The Economic Times quoted a senior investment banker who wanted to remain anonymous.

In October 2015, Tikona Digital Networks, engaged in building the next generation wireless broadband services for home and enterprise customers in India, has announced that it would launch 4G broadband plans in 30 cities by the first half of 2016.

The telecommunications firm currently runs a pilot project in Varanasi to wire the city with 4G technology for home broadband. The company has 20 MHz of broadband spectrum in 5 telecom circles including Gujarat, UP=East, UP-West, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh, for which it had paid Rs 1,058 crore during the 2010 Broadband Wireless Auctions.

Prakash Bajpai, a technocrat, started Tikona’s home WiFi service on free airwaves, but business did not shape up as earlier forecast. In 2012, Tikona consolidated resources shutting service in 12 out of the 38 cities and has now developed technology to provide broadband with 4G technology.

After its latest technology investments, Bajpai said the company can now produce 1GB of data for a mere Rs 5. It is looking to replicate this process in Varanasi in at least 60 more cities within the next 18 months.

“Mobile telecom operators produce a GB of data at about Rs 60 to 70,” said a senior telecom analyst. However, the cost structure for mobile operators and home broadband operators will always be disparate because maintaining mobile continuity is costly.

However, the company is not trying to complete with wireless operators, but instead challenges only BSNI, Tata Teleservices, and other local broadband operators such as Hathaway.

In Varanasi, Bajpai said the company has been able to take on competition and gained around half the market. It is not offering low-end solutions and instead wants to corner the multi-device, heavy users who consume tens of GB data. Bajpai also said the move has resulted in a seven-month break even for Varanasi.

“Varanasi is the first city where 4G services has been launched and plans are to launch 4G network in other cities and circles soon. We are hopeful that subscribers in Varanasi will get to experience world class home broadband services which they can use conveniently for various reasons,” said Prakash Bajpai, the Founder, MD and CEO of Tikona Digital Networks.

The company had earlier secured US$45 million in November 2014 from International Finance Corporation, Goldman Sachs, Oak Investment Partners, Everstone Capital Advisors and L&t Infrastructure Co Ltd.

Tikona plans to use the fresh funds for rolling out the 4G-based broadband services across the country.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Malaysian venture capital firm TinkBig to launch US$30 million fund

Malaysian venture capital firm TinkBig Venture is seeking for potential startups to be part of their US$30 million investment that is said to launch towards the end of 2017.

As for details about TinkBig’s investment verticals, the VC firm’s second vehicle will allocate at least 10 percent for IoT Smart Homes focused companies in 2017.

“We will be targeting regional investment around Asia highly focused on marketing right and royalty deal structuring. We are currently looking into Taiwan and Shenzhen IoT players to bring these products to Southeast Asia market,” serial entrepreneur and TinkBig’s founding partner Andrew Tan said.

Founded in July 2016, TinkBig is a comparatively new venture capital firm in the country. In addition, the VC firm to date has invested about US$2.4 million in eight companies, mostly consumer-based.

Among its investment portfolio, includes BurgieLaw – an intermediary platform between startups and the legal industry, Refash – a Singapore-based pre-loved fashion portal; and GOtixs – a platform for promotion and savings.

For most of its investments, the VC firm had picked up a stake ranging between 7.5 percent to 15 percent while maintaining a general ticket size of between RM500k to RM3 million, which translates to approximately US$112k to US$672k.

Likewise, the new US$30 million fund will also maintain a similar ticket size whereby it will be targeting early-stage companies in their seed round which displays a good product/market fit.

Formed by a team of 11 seasoned entrepreneurs, the VC firm is led by Venture Partner Andrew Tan, Principal Partner Jin Tan and Tech Partner Nitin Gupta, who before TinkBig, each have about 20 experiences in business, investment and tech.

The team, through Tinkbig, aims to help startup throughout the process of ideation to commercialisation. Besides, the incubator process also involved a live pitching resembling a reality show which helps prepare startups.

Looking to raise the funds by the third quarter of 2017, TinkBig has completed just about 20 percent of the funding for this new vehicle largely from investors who include entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals, and listed companies.

“The market is getting soft as Limited Partners are getting cautious. However, this reluctance to invest is not because of a scarcity of good investment options,” Andrew Tan, the Principal Partner of TinkBig explained.

In fact, long exit windows and lack of sufficient secondary data to conduct due diligence along with diminishing returns have made limited partners become cautious. “It’s going to be a very challenging moment for 2017 to raise funds from LPs,” Tan adds.

“We are looking into the space of functionally designed prop that essentially becomes your smartphone’s best friend within seconds. Remote-controlled devices such as TV, air conditioner, sound system etc, and the user’s smartphone learns the device and lets the user control it from the phone itself using Bluetooth,” Tan also noted.

Besides, IoT Smart homes which are mostly based in Singapore, Japan, and China are increasingly becoming an area where many want to engage and invest.

“I would say IoT smart homes is a very promising area and billion dollar market,” Tan noted. “I believe 2017 will be the year that IoT is going to be one of the hottest topics in the investment scene with functional IoT devices that are going automated and provide convenient to daily lifestyle.”

TinkBig intends to fill the gap in Malaysia for a VC fund which not only supports its investments via a holistic approach but also to create an ecosystem for success rather than just providing capital.

“If we find interesting startups we will introduce them to relevant corporate partners. For example, we would introduce an IoT company who specialise in energy saving product we would connect them to our developer partners who have a lot of industry experience that can be leveraged to help the startup fine-tune its product,” he said.

With a focus on Southeast Asia, the firm has a strong foothold in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. The company is also currently exploring opportunities in Vietnam.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

China-based tech corp Kuang-Chi launches US$250 Global Tech Fund

Shenzhen-based Chinese technology conglomerate Kuang-Chi Group announced on January 11 that is has launched a US$230 million fund that will be used to invest in global technology companies.

The fund is known as Global Community of Innovation (GCI) Fund II and is accompanied by the opening of its Israel-based International Innovation Headquarters.

As one of the first Chinese fund of its kind, GCI Fund is targeted at Israel technology companies that are looking to collaborate with local Chinese firms for entry and expansion into their domestic markets.

GCI Fund II will invest US$250 million in global technology companies active in sectors of smart city and home, computer vision,Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, VR/AR and robotic.

The selected startups will be supported by a new China-based incubator, established by Kuang-Chi to help bring its portfolio companies to the Chinese market.

“We were able to quickly deploy the US$50-million GCI Fund I in exceptional companies that operate in sectors we know well and we’d like to build on this momentum with Fund II,” said Dr. Liu Ruopeng, the chairman of Kuang Chi.

“Working with our partner in Israel, we’ve identified a wealth of opportunities to expand our portfolio and give our joint investment team an expanded strategic and financial mandate,” he added.

Earlier, the first GCI fund established in 2016, has seen stakes in several Israeli companies, including computer vision pioneer eyeSight, voice analytics developer Beyond Verbal, and video intelligence and analytics provider AgentVi.

Besides, the fund has also invested in Norwegian biometric authorization innovator Zwipe, Canadian aviation company SkyX, SolarShip and Australia’s Martin Jetpack.

“We have moved from success to success in Israel, and I’m delighted by the pace of our good progress showed in our recent investments in eyeSight, AgentVi and Beyond Verbal,” the Kuang-Chi co-founder and CEO of KuangChi Science, Yangyang Zhang said.

Within six months of its investment, Kuang-Chi and eyeSight jointly built a local team in China to provide markets with the most advanced embedded computer vision solutions currently available.

While in December, Beyond Verbal signed its first cooperation agreement in China, with the Second Affiliated Hospital Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou.

“GCI portfolio companies will share access to cutting-edge technology that includes over 2,000 patents and R&D from around the world. Each of these investments comes with an opportunity to expand their business in China and establish relationships with global market leaders across multiple industries,” added Liu.

Founded in 2010 by a five-person team, Kuang-Chi has created a Global Community of Innovation of more than 2,600 employees which spread through 18 countries and regions.

The fund is dedicated to disruptive innovation and principal investment in cutting-edge technology sectors including communications, metamaterials, and space technology.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Bank of Jiujiang seeks to raise US$500 million IPO in Hong Kong

Bank of Jiujiang, a lender in eastern China’s Jiangxi province, plans to raise a US$500 million initial public offering (IPO) in Hong Kong, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Based in a city on the southern banks of the Yangtze River, the Bank of Jiujiang has already begun reaching out to investment banks about the potential listing, in which is scheduled to list in the second half of 2017.

The lender’s move in seeking a Hong Kong listing follows other regional banks, which includes Guangzhou Rural Commercial Bank Co. and Jilin Jiutai Rural Commercial Bank Corp., and is aimed to boost its profile and raise funds for expansion.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg Show, financial institutions have completed US$18.2 billion of first-time share sales in the city last year, accounting for 72 percent of fundraising from new listings in 2016.

Founded in 2000 and operating as an urban commercial bank, Jiujiang Bank currently has 12 branches in China, with 10 of its branches located in the Jiangxi Province while 2 are situated in Guangzhou.

Backers of the Bank of Jiujiang includes the local government, state-owned Beijing Automotive Group Co. and Industrial Bank Co. The lender’s net income fell 0.6 percent in 2015 to 1.78 billion yuan (about US$257 million), according to its annual report.

Details of the IPO are still in deliberations, and there is no certainty that this potential listing will lead to a share sale.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Indian Aurobindo Pharma acquires Portugal’s Generis for Rs 970 crore in a bid to boost margins in Europe

Aurobindo Pharma Ltd announced on Saturday that it has acquired Portuguese pharmaceutical company Generis Farmaceutica SA from Magnum Capital Partners for approximately Rs 969 crore (approximately 135 million euros).

The binding agreement for this acquisition was inked through the Aurobindo Pharma’s wholly-owned subsidiary Agile Pharma BV based in Netherlands.

“The acquisition of Generis, by leveraging its strong portfolio and unrivaled brand recognition will allow us to establish ourselves as top generics player in the Portuguese market,” Aurobindo SVP European Operations, V Muralidharan said.

Generis produces and sells pharma products in Portugal which serve Aurobindo Pharma’s aim at increasing the profitability of its European operation, whereby Aurobindo Pharma estimates that the net sales with its acquired businesses will be approximately 72 million euros in 2017, compared to the 64.8 million euros in 2016.

In addition, the adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EDITDA) estimate for 2016 is 12.7 million euros, which is projected to improve to 15.8 million euros in 2017, Aurobindo Pharma said.

However, the real benefit of this acquisition can only be realised if Aurobindo can drive up its scale of operations and perform synergies to lower costs.

“The combined entity will benefit from a robust pipeline covering all major molecules coming off-patent in the next five years. The acquisition includes a state of the art manufacturing facility based in Portugal, which will allow us to better serve both the local Portuguese market and the broader European market, particularly with regard to small volume products and also to meet timelines for low lead time tenders,” V. Muralidharan explains.

As per details of the acquisition, the deal involves Generis’s manufacturing facility in Amadora, Portugal which has the capacity to produce 1.2 billion tablets, capsules and sachets annually.

“This deal consolidates Aurobindo’s footprint in Portugal, which currently consists of Aurovitas, Unipessoal LDA, and Unipessoal Limitada. The consolidated APL group will rank number one in the Portuguese generic pharma market, and will have the largest generic product portfolio consisting of 271 products,” said Muralidharan.

“This acquisition coupled with our past acquisition activity underlies our commitment to focus on growth initiatives in European markets and will be a key driver of growth for the future,” he further adds.
Aurobindo Pharma manufactures generic pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The company’s product portfolio is spread over 7 major therapeutic/product areas encompassing Antibiotics, Anti-Retrovirals, CVS, CNS, Gastroenterologicals, Anti-Allergies and Anti-Diabetics which is marketed globally in over 150 countries.

“Generis will benefit immensely from Aurobindo’s vertical integration and strong product pipeline,” Paulo Lilaia, the CEO of Generis said. “Our large portfolio along with our unmatched commercial presence in Portugal will allow Aurobindo to consolidate its market position in Portugal.”

Closing the transaction, Aurobindo Pharma has received the shareholder approval to raise Rs 2,100 crore through a sale of shares which is intended to use for the acquisition. However, the deal remains to be conditional depending on obtaining the necessary approvals from the Portuguese authorities.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

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