Category: Mergers & Acquisitions

Singapore Startup Carousell Set to Become Latest SEA Unicorn in Merger with Rival 701Search

Singapore’s Carousell, a startup that operates in the online classifieds business space, announced recently that it had agreed to a merger with 701Search, a subsidiary of Norwegian multinational telecommunications giant Telenor Group.

The merger of the two entities will see the valuation of Carousell skyrocket to more than US$850 million from its current valuation of US$560 million, bringing it tantalizing close to the US$1 billion valuation mark that denotes unicorn status. As a result of the agreement, 701Search will cease to be a subsidiary of Telenor Group after the merger and will begin operations as a unit of Carousell, reporting to Carousell chief executive officer Quek SIu Rui.

As part of the deal, Telenor will now hold a 32 percent stake in the newly merged company, thus succeeding Rakuten Ventures to become the Singapore-based startup’s single largest minority stakeholder. The cash and equities deal saw Carousell acquiring 701Search assets and US$20 million in currency in exchange for some of the company’s shares to Telenor.

Discussing about how the merger with 701Search came into being, Carousell’s chief financial officer, Rakesh Malani, said that the entire process was very fluid and organic as both companies have been operating in the same space for quite some time and thus are quite familiar with each other.

701Search operates 3 digital marketplace platforms in Southeast Asia; OneKyat in Myanmar, Mudah in Malaysia and ChoTot in Vietnam. Following the merger, all three marketplaces will still keep their respective names and manage their business operations, though Quek Siu Riu will be fully in charge.

As well, Carousell will completely absorb 701Search’s Singapore-based regional hub team. Quek said that the strategic merger will accelerate Carousell’s plans to be Southeast Asia’s preeminent force in the online classifieds business space as the three aforementioned online sites are already the leading digital classifieds marketplaces for their respective countries. Besides the newly added entrants of Vietnam and Myanmar through ChoTot and OneKyat, Carousell has existing operations in the markets of Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, and Indonesia.

Even though the idea of being so close to achieving unicorn status might be an attractive and tempting prospect to some, Malani said that the company has its sights set firmly on the ground; the newly combined company will further examine how the merger will serve to enhance its business performance and grant access to potentially lucrative new markets in Vietnam and Myanmar.

He also emphasized that, as a result of the merger, the Singapore-based startup’s annualized revenue for the current year is now a whopping US$40 million, which is a substantial five-fold increase over its 2018 revenue of US$7 million. Malani added that so long as the company remains focused on delivering results and improving performance, the startup will eventually reach unicorn status as a matter of course.

Founded in Singapore in 2012 by Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduates Quek Siu Riu, Lucas Ngoo and Marcus Tan, Carousell is an online business to business and consumer to consumer marketplace that has received investments from notable parties such as Rakuten, 500 Startups and Quest Ventures. It managed to successfully raise US$85 million for its Series C funding round in May 2018, which was co-led by EDBI and Rakuten Ventures.

Singapore-based startup Carousell, though coming very close to being Southeast Asia’s premier unicorn in the online classifieds business space, is still focused on its core business and providing quality service and solutions for its users first and foremost. Nevertheless, by keeping its feet planted firmly on the ground, the company may soar to even greater heights and join Southeast Asia’s pantheon of unicorns sooner rather than later.

Indonesian unicorn Tokopedia enters Indonesian wedding marketplace via Bridestory acquisition

We heard rumors earliest in May from DealStreetAsia, and now the two are finally tying the knot.

Indonesian wedding service marketplace Bridestory has been acquired by Tokopedia, the country’s largest ecommerce marketplace.

The big news was revealed with a short creative Facebook video, showing a romantic couple giving compliments to each other and ending it with the say yes moment.

Founded in 2014, Bridestory lets you plan your wedding on your smartphone.

“It all starts with a web application, then we slowly saw the change in behavior as people became more mobile-centric. We also wanted to help brides to plan their wedding anywhere and anytime with their smartphone,” said Bridestory’s CEO Kevin Mintaraga.

The startup targets the wedding market in Southeast Asia, connecting soon-to-be-wed couples with wedding venues, organizers and all the vendors and service providers that are necessary to plan the big day.

The platform hosts 28 vendor categories from the wedding venue, catering, decoration, dress, photography, and entertainment, up to honeymoon plans and other unique services such as bridesmaids’ dresses, painting, and calligraphy.

To date, the startup claims to have linked more than 3.5 million customers to over 27,000 wedding vendors every year.

Bridestory and Tokopedia

But not just wedding. Bridestory clarified in a press statement that Tokopedia has acquired all assets from Bridestory including its newer Parentstory established in October 2018.

Parentstory, though similar to Bridestory, connects parents and soon-to-be parents to different age-specific activities for their children.

Hence, the acquisition will cover all assets of Bridestory and Parentstory, including intellectual property, human resources, and its physical & digital assets.

Tokopedia specified that the acquisition will not change the business strategy of Bridestory and Parentstory, the site will continue to operate independently.

However, Kevin Mintaraga will become part of Tokopedia’s management as vice president.

Doni Hanafi, Bridestory’s Co-Founder & CTO said following the collaboration, Bridestory will continue to expand its business so that it can reach more partners and wedding customers.

At the moment, Bridestory is launching Bridestorypay to facilitate offline transactions to move online so that every prospective bride facilitate better payment experience.

Indonesia 4 unicorns

Indonesia’s four tech unicorns – Traveloka, Tokopedia, Bukalapak, and Go-Jek have been acquiring smaller startups for a while now.

Another recent acquisition is Go-Jek’s acquisition of Indian AI recruitment startup AirCTO.

These acquisitions are usually done for various reasons – sometimes to accelerate their entry into new verticals or to acquire teams and technologies.

For the deal between Tokopedia and Bridestory, it seems to be both.

With that, Tokopedia has officially entered into the wedding marketplace.

William Tanuwijaya, the Co-founder and CEO of Tokopedia said the company is trying to connect with startups that have new innovations and products that will disrupt the ecosystem.

“As a tech company, in the first ten years, Tokopedia has been dedicated to helping business owners become ecommerce based business. For the next ten years, Tokopedia strives to help every business in Indonesia evolve into a technology-based business.”

William added, looking at Bridestory and Parentstory, Tokopedia sees a ready ecosystem where the company has the connections of makeup artist, photographer, hotel, restaurant, as if they were a technology company.

“Through this acquisition, Tokopedia is committed to becoming a partner for these vendors to help them grow and evolve through technology, in favor to provide every bride and groom in Indonesia the best experience for one of the best moments of their lives. It is also the same with Parentstory in providing parents the best solutions and activities for their children,” said William.

Besides Bridestory, Tokopedia has invested in a number of other startups, including Sayurbox, Laku6, and AnterAja.

Although the value of the acquisition was not disclosed, it’s most likely that the fund was drawn from the US$2.5 billion funds raised from investors like Sequoia, Alibaba, and Softbank.

With this huge sum, it’s most likely the acquisition spree will continue. So, let’s stay tuned to what other acquisitions Tokopedia will make?

Filipino fast food chain Jollibee may take a bite of UK sandwich chain Pret A Manger

Filipino fast food restaurant chain Jollibee has been engaging in talks exploring a bid for Britain’s sandwich chain Pret A Manger, according to various sources familiar with the matter.

The valuation for the upscale sandwich chain may exceed US$1 billion, based on the sandwich chain’s 2016 core earnings of over 93 million pounds (about US$125 million).

This unsolicited offer for Pret A Manger was also derived to compete with its likely valuation from a potential listing of its private equity owner, Bridgepoint which was preparing for a New York listing later this year.

If the deal is successful, this would mark Jollibee’s biggest overseas deals to date and potentially one of the biggest ever outbound deals from the Philippines.

Jollibee’s most recent expansion move was in May through the acquisition of SuperFoods Group who owns and operates the brands Highland Coffee and noodle house Pho 24.

The pairing comes unlikely as Jollibee has a huge following in the Philippines for its fast food burgers, fried chicken, and sweet-style spaghetti.

On the other end, Pret A Manger with over 400 shops worldwide is famous for selling organic coffee and wholesome sandwiches to office workers in Britain and in cities like Hong Kong and New York.

At present, Jollibee operates the largest foodservice network in the Philippines with 2,700 restaurant outlets in the country – giving it a market valuation of US$5.2 billion.

The fast food chain, which outsells McDonald’s and KFC in the Philippines, has been starting to push into global markets to boost sales and profits through acquisition.

Jollibee has also been expanding across Southeast Asia, looking to appeal to lucrative local consumers as well as overseas Filipinos with coffee, donuts, and noodle offering.

JAS Asset acquires cafe chain Casa Lapin to set up joint venture Beans and Brown

Thai listed property developer JAS Asset Plc has bought over the trademark food and cafe chain Casa Lapin from Coffee Project Co Ltd for a price tag of 42 million baht (about US$1.27 million).

The company concluded the agreement earlier last month, whereby the high-end coffee house chain will enter into a new joint venture – Beans & Brown Co Ltd. – with JAS Asset having 60 percent ownership while 40 percent is held by Coffee Project.

In other words, three of Casa Lapin current seven branches in Bangkok will belong to Beans and Brown while the remaining four will be jointly operated by the company and its partners on a revenue-sharing basis.

Additionally, Beans and Browns plans to open three more Casa Lapins in the central business districts this year and at least another 10 in 2018 including its first flagship store at a premium shopping complex in the heart of Bangkok which will cover at least 200 square meters.

“Coffee Project was very successful in building the Casa Lapin brand,” said Suphot Wanna, the Chief Executive Officer of JAS Asset Plc. “It is clearly different from other cafe franchises.”

“Casa Lapin is famous for its quality coffee beans, as well as neat coffee-making, and attention to every step from roasting to brewing and other stages of preparation.”

Moving forward, Casa Lapin is looking to expand its presence to Asian cities in the region such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore.

But ultimately, this move for JAS Asset is aimed at diversifying JAS Asset’s portfolio and springboard the firm to enter the food and cafe market that it has long expressed interest.

“We target our revenue will grow from 60 million baht this year to 180 million baht ($5.4 million) in 2018 and 360 million baht ($10.87 million) in 2020 and get it listed on the stock market in the same year,” Suphot said.

At present, 70 per cent of Casa Lapin’s revenue comes from coffee and beverage sales and the rest comes from food and bakery. It plans to generate more revenue from selling souvenirs in the future.

Temasek takes 30% stake in Italian fashion brand Stone Island

Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek is set to acquire a 30 percent stake in Italian fashion retailer Stone Island, according to its parent firm Sportswear Company S.p.A.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but it is understood that the capital will help the men’s sportswear brand to expand its reach internationally.

“I am truly satisfied for this partnership with one of the world’s most established investment companies,” said the Sportswear Company’s founder Carlo Rivetti. “I particularly appreciate Temasek’s investment strategy to participate in companies with strong growth potential, know-hows, and identity.”

For Temasek, this comes at a time when its divestment is outpacing its investment. Increasingly, the firm is under pressure for higher investment returns which has led it to make larger bets and adding more unlisted stocks to its portfolio.

However, this is not the first fashion investment for the company. Last year, Temasek has participated in the US$110 million Series F funding round for Farfetch, as well as acquired a 26.8 percent stake in Italian fashion firm Moncler.

Founded in 1982 by Massimo Osti, Stone Island’s famous jackets were the result of an experiment of creating the fabric for military jackets. The company was acquired in 1983 by Rivetti’s family firm GFT which was one of the largest apparel manufacturers in Italy.

It later became Sportswear Company and developed its brand Stone Island to become a mixture of technical wear, high-fashion, and streetwear. The company even has collaborations with Supreme and Nike, as well as stockists like Kith.

Meanwhile, the company reports revenues for 2016 to be €109 million (about US$129 million ), that is a 26 percent increase compared to last year at €87 million (about US$97 million)

With this acquisition, Temasek agrees to guarantee the continuity and the autonomy of the Stone Island management team, which according to Rivetti is essential to successfully face and overcome the challenges for the fashion sectors.

“I wanted to both capitalize on the work done in 35 years and to team with a partner to face the increasingly complex opportunities proposed by the markets,” Rivetti explained.

“I am confident that the brand Stone Island will keep on with increased success its development, being able to count on a competent and attentive partner to the specifics of our business and with strong international relations,” he added.

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