The Singapore unicorn expects its SPAC deal to finalize in Q4 of this year.
Grab, the Southeast Asian unicorn reported a net loss of $988 million for the July-September quarter, increased from a loss of $621 million a year earlier, as increased COVID-19 control measures in the area impacted its core ride-hailing business.
The Singaporean digital tech business, a significant startup in the area, offers ride-hailing, delivery, and banking services through what it calls a “superapp” approach.
Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Myanmar are among the countries it operates.
On Thursday, Grab also stated that its proposed merger with a particular purpose acquisition company, Altimeter Growth Corp., located in the United States, “continues to advance and is slated to complete in the fourth quarter of 2021.”
The deal values Grab at roughly $40 billion and allow the business to be listed on the Nasdaq.
Grab said noncash expenditures such as accrued interest, stock-based compensation, and fair value fluctuations on assets account for a substantial portion of the massive loss for the quarter.
However, several Southeast Asian countries took severe restrictions to control coronavirus spread during the three months through September, creating a “difficult operating environment,” Grab said in a statement.
According to the company, revenue fell 9% to $157 million in the third quarter “as a result of the predicted fall in mobility owing to the severe lockdowns in Vietnam,” according to the company.
Revenue from the ride-hailing business fell 26% to $88 million, while revenue from the delivery business increased 58% year on year to $49 million.
Financial services revenue, such as its e-wallet, climbed 11% to $14 million.
The accounting revenue for Grab is shown net of incentives for drivers, retailers, and customers.
Consumer incentives more than quadrupled to $271 million in the third quarter, indicating a competitive business climate in the region.
Due to its delivery and banking services growth, its gross merchandise value (the entire value of transactions completed through Grab’s platform) climbed 32% to $4 billion in the quarter.
“Despite severe lockdowns in Vietnam and heightened limitations across the region in the third quarter as a result of COVID-19, we performed successfully on our superapp strategy and produced excellent growth,” said CEO Anthony Tan in a statement.
“With a recovery insight and the progressive reopening of economies giving tailwinds to our company, we are doubling down on investments that will help us grab a larger part of the possibilities before us and open up new addressable markets for Grab, such as grocery.”
Separately, Tan stated during an investor webcast that the firm anticipates a significant rebound in the ride-hailing sector in the fourth quarter, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, as vaccination rates rise in the area.
Nikkei Asia reported that the government of Vietnam has assigned its central bank in the R&D of its very own blockchain-based digital currency. The policy came forth in Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s Decision 942, which outlined the government’s approach to digitalizing the country with virtual currency based on blockchain technology by 2030.
According to Nikkei, Binh Nguyen Thanh, a coordinator at RMIT University Vietnam’s FinTech-Crypto Hub, said that the government authorities will have more control over the virtual money than having it be left to decentralized software and private enterprises. Thanh quoted, “I think they will look at how the experiment in other countries goes.” As back in October 2020 last year, Cambodia launched a state-backed digital coin called “Bakong,” while neighboring countries like Cina and Thailand are reported to have similar thoughts.
He further explained that in Vietnam, cryptocurrency is as it is, will remain in the grey area of an obscured regulation. Dabbling in bitcoin and applying it as a means of payment is a violation of the law and may be subjected to administrative or criminal sanctions.
Alibaba subsidiary, Alibaba Cloud announced its plans to invest USD $1billion across several Asia Pacific countries in developing a digital talent pool and empower the growth of 100,000 startups in the technological field. Current disclosed countries to be involved in the investment plans are Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore.
The investment strategy is part of Alibaba Cloud’s AsiaForward core project, DigiTalents Forward with a focus on infrastructure, technological innovation, and talent development to help in the economic growth of the local arena. AsiaForward has two more projects under its wing being AI Forward, and DigiEntrepreneurs Forward.
Alibaba will partner with Handsprofit, Malaysia in developing its very first international innovation centre in the country. This will become an opportunity for Malaysian startups, and SMEs a platform for innovation opportunities. The platform will be offering various cloud technology, leadership training, and venture capital networking.
The data centre investment in Indonesia will be the third launch by Alibaba Cloud that offers database, security, network, machine learning, and data analytics services. It is mentioned that the new centre allows better support for local businesses in adopting cloud technology and encourages Indonesia’s push for a digital community.
As for development in the Philippines, the first data centre is estimated to be launched by end of 2021. Similar to the development plans of Malaysia and Indonesia, it will be a huge support for the digitalization of local businesses through services such as elastic compute service, database, global network solution, content delivery network, and storage services. This establishes Alibaba Cloud’s stand on prioritizing the country’s banking, fintech, retail, logistics, education sectors, and others.
In Singapore, Alibaba Cloud plans a kick-off of the DigiTalents Forward program. This is said to be a collaboration with Singapore’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, and NTU-Alibaba Singapore Joint Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University. Programs will include the focus of various AI courses under NTU’s MiniMasters program.
China’s President Xi Jinping, speaking during a group study session for members of the Politburo last Thursday, said that the country “must clarify the main direction, increase investment, focus on a number of key core technologies, and accelerate the development of blockchain technology and industrial innovation”. Additionally, he stressed that blockchain would play “an important role in the next round of technological innovation and industrial transformation”.
While certain Chinese government officials have made comments and statements on blockchain in the past, Xi’s comments are likely the highest-profile public endorsement of blockchain technology for China to date. As it turns out, even as Xi called for more adoption of blockchain technologies in China, there are already hundreds of enterprise blockchain projects being developed in the country, led by some of China’s biggest industry players.
According to the Cyberspace Administration of China, which requires every entity developing blockchain technologies in the country to register with it for oversight, there were 309 such blockchain projects listed for the month of October alone. Some of the information gleaned from the list is that those currently involved in blockchain projects include some of China’s largest banks and commercial tech conglomerates, alongside many public sectors and government projects.
All four of China’s tech titans, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, and Huawei, are competing to see which one would be able to develop and provide China’s most advanced blockchain cloud services. According to registration data, all four tech giants have filed blockchain white papers that detail information about their blockchain cloud services as infrastructure providers for third parties.
Alibaba has been particularly busy in the field of blockchain, having filed 90 patent applications for projects that are focused on blockchain-related technologies. Tencent has been developing its own range of blockchain services as well, having filed registrations for its Tencent Blockchain and Tencent Cloud TBaaS Blockchain. As for Chinese search engine Baidu, some of its projects that were registered on the list include Token, which makes use of blockchain to protect intellectual property rights, and Baidu Blockchain Engine which is a cloud services provider. Baidu has also registered and patented its Super Chain, which is focused on providing foundational infrastructure for blockchain services.
On the trade finance and banking side, six banks including ICBC and Ping An Bank have registered a total of 14 blockchain projects. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which is one of China’s big four state-owned commercial banks and the largest bank in the world by total assets, has registered two blockchain projects: ICBC Financial Services and ICBCXi Blockchain Service, which are projects aimed at improving and facilitating transactions for its clients and customers. Ping An Bank has adopted FiMax, a blockchain network, to improve security and privacy and increase efficiency in transactions and supply chain financing.
The Chinese government is also applying blockchain technologies to a variety of services, such as tax collection, matters of legal arbitration and land development use cases. Blockchain is innovating the legal landscape in China with the introduction of Internet courts. These courts are authorized to deal with a number of internet-related cases such as small loan contract disputes, online intellectual property disputes, and online financing, with all legal processes being conducted online. Both the Beijing and Guangzhou Internet Courts have registered their respective blockchain-based platforms. Some other examples of blockchain projects being utilized by the government sector include Cross-Border Transactions Platform for the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and Blockchain Electronic Invoice for the State Administration of Taxation Shenzhen branch.
Looking forward the number of blockchain projects to be developed and implemented in China is only going to grow at a tremendous rate. Blockchain technologies will play an important and crucial role in China’s industrial and technological innovation and transformation.
When you think of the startup scene in Southeast Asia, you might think of regional leaders like Singapore and Indonesia which are home to six of eight unicorns.
However, a country in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is quickly following suit. Home to over 95 million people, the country is one of the region’s fastest-growing economies with an average GDP of US$68.78 billion from 1985 until 2017.
In fact, the Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Vietnam’s startup sector is growing at a rapid pace despite a global economic slump, and quickly closing its gap with the regional leaders.
The vibrant startup landscape can be attributed to the support fuelled by the government and accelerators as they aggressively promote entrepreneurship through legal and financial support. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, the country sees 39,580 startups entering the ecosystem.
And according to the joint research by Singapore’s Cento Ventures and Ho Chi Minh city-based venture capital ESP Capital, the first six months of 2019 has recorded the country’s startup investment to reach US$246 million this year through 56 deals.
Investment is also forecasted to exceed US$800 million by the end of the year, which would represent a rise of at least 80% over last year’s US$444 million.
When tracking the investments based on the destination country, Vietnam accounted for 17% of startup investments in the region, increasing 5% for all of 2018, behind Indonesia at 48% and Singapore at 25%.
As a matter of fact, the startup investment in Vietnam began to increase last year, with the online retail, payments and education sectors attracting huge capital injections.
Among startups that raised the lion’s share of funding last year was e-payment app Momo, which raised about US$100 million from American private equity company Warburg Pincus, making it one of the largest single rounds ever raised by a Vietnamese startup.
Other up-and-coming startups in Vietnam like ecommerce platform Tiki has also secured a large injection of funding. Based on ESP-Cento, the round raised US$75 million in March and was led by Singapore private equity firm Northstar Group.
Then, of course, there’s its home-grown unicorn VNG Corporation, which specializes in digital content, online entertainment, social networking, and ecommerce. The startup behind Zal, a communication application with more than 100 million, also recorded a US$29 million investment from Temasek.
Looking at these statistics and moving trends, it seems like Vietnam is in the bare minimum cash-ready and the bet of various investors as the region’s next leading startup ecosystem.