Category: Press

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.

Myanmar’s search technology startup Bindez secures six-digit USD round from Vulpes Investment

Singapore’s Vulpes Investment Management Pte Ltd (VIMIC) has announced an investment in Bindez, a search engine and discovery platform based in Yangon.

Following this funding, VIMIC’s adviser Rita Nguyen will also join Bindez’s board.

For Vulpes, this will be the company’s third equity investment in Myanmar after sealing two seed investments in logistic startup Kargo and online freelance job platform Chate Sat using its tech-focused VC fund .

“The potential for harnessing the great technology which Bindehas already built is massive and will be transformative in Myanmar’s emerging technology story. We are very excited to be part of their future growth,” said VIMIC.

Providing a localized solution, Bindez uses natural language processing and machine learning technologies for easy access to data and content which are created in Burmese.

The search technology startup currently owns two products:

    – Bindez Thadin: a B2C content discovery platform where people can access the latest Burmese news
    – Bindez Insights: a social media monitoring product that helps understand market trends and insights

Launched in 2014, the startup is also the first Myanmar startup to have raised a seed and angel investments from international investor 500 Startup.

Yewint Ko, the Co-founder of Bindez said, “Bindez is a mix of linguistic data and machine learning capabilities. It is helping brands to overcome long-time Burmese language issues.”

This includes font compatibility to better understand their customers and how their brand is being perceived online.

“Because of this, we are seeing a real demand for our products more so than ever before. This investment from VIMIC will allow us to scale up the business to meet this growing demand.”

The startup also claims to be the only social media listening tool specific to the Myanmar market, with its news aggregation app reaching a million downloads and 2 million page views per month.

Japanese startup Ambient Intelligence raises funding to develop submersible underwater drone

From aerial exploration used in construction sites to the commercial use of taking high-ground selfies, drones have been cited for its many applications up in the air until the arrival of this Japanese startup enter the drone scene.

Ambient Intelligence Technology, a startup developing and manufacturing submersible underwater drones, said that it has secured 190 million yen (about US$1.7 million) in its latest round led by Beyond Next Ventures.

The round which was intended to accelerate the company’s plan in developing business-use drones for maintaining and managing underwater infrastructure also saw participation from Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital, SMBC Venture Capital, and Freebit Investment.

Established in 2014 by Shohei Ito and Yasushi Nakauchi, Ambient Intelligence is focused on developing underwater drones, to solve the limitations for a human diving professional which can only reach the maximum depth of 40 meters. Any depths more than 40 meters and it will be required to use the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) which can be complex and expensive.

To solve this, Ambient Intelligence looks to release Spider – an underwater drone product from the company next spring. It has eight thrusters and can be connected to a terminal on a mother vessel by a single tether cable.

Users can simply operate a gamepad for the drone to go down to a maximum depth of 300 meters. Its battery life last 4 hours and it has altitude control and computer vision-based position holding functions for the drone body which will allow users to easily monitor and research environment even in a strong water current area.

Despite there being little petroleum production in the country, the technology will become useful in Japan for the maintenance and management of underwater infrastructures such as dams and harbors.

It will also be easier to conduct surveys in environments where there is are tidal currents which have been difficult until now.

“Currently we are concentrating on expanding the underwater drone submerging to a depth of 300 meters with high market needs,” said Ambient Intelligence. “But in the future, we will develop products that can withstand the water depth of 1000 meters which will allow further exploration of the deep sea.”

Singaporean Game Studio BattleBrew Productions secures undisclosed angel funding

BattleBrew Productions, a new game developer based in Singapore announced that it has raised its first angel funding from Emerio’s CEO Harish Nim.

Similarly based in Singapore, Emerio Corp is an IT service provider that is a subsidiary company of NTT-Docomo, one of Japan’s largest telco operator.

The funding amount was undisclosed but BattleBrew will use the newly-raised capital to fund the development of its first game under the working title Wyldeweavers. It is said to be a free-to-play mobile strategy game for the iOS and Android platforms.

Launched earlier in February 2017, BattleBrew is made up by a team of 12 veteran game developers from Singapore, including Benjamin Chua, Louis Cua, and Greyson He who have previously worked at Ubisoft, developing triple AAA titles such as the Assassin’s Creed series.

Meanwhile, other members of the team have also worked in big-name gaming companies such as Gameloft and Sea (previously known as Garena).

Leading the team is CEO Shawn Toh who has worked as the game designer for Nubee and Gumi Asia, as well as being the associated producer at the Game Lab of the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

“The industry is pretty close-knit, so once we had an idea for a game we really wanted to work on, it was an easy decision. We have a lot more ownership in what we make, especially for the guys or girls who came from triple-A studios,” Toh explained.

The team is also supported by Elicia Lee, the founder of Singapore gaming convention GameStart Asia and Ian Gregory Tan, the creative director of Witching Hour Studios which became a crowdfunding sensation with its RPG title Masquerada: Songs and Shadows.

On the other hand, there has also been a rise of immersive VR entertainment in Southeast Asia’s gaming scene. In June, Havson group has introduced EXA Outpost, the first hyper-reality gaming theme park in Malaysia.

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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