Issue 35

QL Resources aims to open 90 FamilyMart outlets by FY19

QL Resources Bhd a FamilyMart convenience store master franchisee in Malaysia, aims to open 90 outlets by the financial year ending March 31, 2019.

QL Executive Chairman Dr Chia Song Kun said this is part of the company's efforts in pursuing its long-term target of 300 stores in five years.

“Currently, FamilyMart has 59 stores in the Klang Valley and will maintain its focus on the area,” he told reporters after QL's annual general meeting here today.

Chia said FY18 marks a full year of FamilyMart operations in Malaysia with investment up to RM30 million for 39 stores in its initial year, signifying the rapid expansion for the brand originating in Japan.

He said by adopting the ‘konbini' concept and providing convenience particularly with ready-to-eat food, FamilyMart creates waves wherever it opens.

“We expect a good contribution in the next two years, as the long-term economic prospects are favourable to the infrastructure system and we anticipate the gestation period to be positive,” said Chia.

“Overall, actual performance in terms of key store operating key performance indicators such as gross margin, average ticket count and ticket size is meeting expectations,” he said.

QL is a multinational agro-food corporation that farms and produces resource-efficient protein and food energy sources.

The group has three principal activities namely integrated livestock farming, marine products manufacturing and palm oil activities spanning Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and China. – BERNAMA.

  From – The Star

Apollo heads offshore for pair of billion-dollar deals

Case in point: Apollo Global Management has agreed to purchase Aspen Insurance for $42.75 per share, or about $2.6 billion, marking a 6.6% premium to the Bermuda-based company's closing price Monday. The deal is expected to close in 1H 2019 and will result in Aspen no longer trading on the NYSE. With nearly $13 billion in total assets,  Aspen offers insurance and reinsurance services to customers across the globe. 

Apollo apparently has a thing for insurance companies based in Bermuda, where there is no income, capital gains, VAT, sales or wealth taxes. Last October, the firm closed an $875 million deal for Catalina Holdings, an operator of non-life insurance and reinsurance businesses in Bermuda, the US and Europe. 

In a separate deal announced Tuesday, Apollo has agreed to acquire non-performing bank loans from the Bank of Cyprus for €1.4 billion (about $1.6 billion). With a contractual balance of €5.7 billion, the bank's portfolio includes 14,024 loans to corporate and SME borrowers across 9,065 properties. The deal appears to be a major win for the Mediterranean island country, which has been bogged down by bad real estate loans. In 2013, the EU orchestrated a multibillion-dollar rescue of the Cyprus government after the Greek economy collapsed. 

The latest Apollo news comes a little more than a year after Leon Black's firm closed its ninth flagship private equity fund on $24.6 billion, marking the largest buyout fund in history after its predecessor raised $18.4 billion in 2014. In July, the firm announced its first mega-deal since the latest close, agreeing to buy US hospital chain LifePoint Health for $5.6 billion, including debt.

From – PitchBook

The US unicorn boom is reaching new heights in 2018

In the first seven months of the year, unicorns in the US raised $19.2 billion in venture capital funding, according to PitchBook's 2018 Unicorn Report. If that sounds like a staggering sum, you're not wrong. Barely halfway through the year, it's already more cash than billion-dollar companies had raised in the US in any full year since at least 2006, and almost surely more than in any year ever: 

We're on pace to reach nearly $33 billion by year-end. As you can see, 2018's influx of unicorn fundings in the US comes after activity in such deals seemed to have plateaued last year after a massive leap between 2013 and 2016. But instead, VCs seem more interested in companies with billion-dollar valuations than ever before. Why?

One reason is that there are simply more of these companies to choose from. There were 153 unicorns headquartered in the US as of August 1, per PitchBook data, more than twice the number that existed just four years ago and six times the unicorn population in 2011. In fact, the number of companies with billion-dollar valuations in the US has increased each of the past dozen years. It only makes sense that the herd would raise more cash as it continues to grow.

Another reason is that the size of these investments is growing. During the first seven months of this year, companies raising their first unicorn round had an average funding size of $287.7 million and a median of $150 million. Those numbers both represent serious upticks from recent years, including 2017 figures of $202.5 million and $140 million, respectively. While 2018 already holds the record for the amount of VC dollars funneled to US unicorns, the quantity of such investments is still the fourth-lowest of the past five years. 

With down rounds for US unicorns still few and far between, it's logical that a huge jump in the amount of cash invested in these startups has been mirrored by a huge jump in their collective worth. Here's a closer look:

The firms making the most investments in these US unicorns are exactly the names you'd expect. Five firms have at least 20 current unicorns in their portfolios, per PitchBook data, and all five are industry heavyweights: Kleiner Perkins, GV, SV Angel, Sequoia and Andreessen Horowitz.

From – PitchBook

Toyota makes half-billion-dollar bet on Uber to develop self-driving cars
Uber is raising $500 million from Toyota at a valuation of roughly $72 billion, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The deal is part of an agreement between the two companies to develop autonomous vehicle technology together. 

Toyota's big investment comes in what's been a rough year for the ridehailing giant on the self-driving car front: In March, one of Uber's vehicles fatally struck a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ, leading the company to make big cuts to its autonomous tech program by taking cars off the road in Arizona, as well as the Bay Area, Pittsburgh and Toronto. And several key members of Uber's self-driving tech team have departed from the company this year, including Justin Erlich, who was head of policy for the department, and director of engineering Drew Gray. 

With the new capital, Uber will recommit to developing self-driving cars. Under the deal, Toyota will have access to the company's autonomous technology, according to TechCrunch. The carmaker plans to eventually use the vehicles to provide rides to the elderly and to disabled people, in addition to other uses. 

Uber and Toyota are among the many companies working to bring self-driving cars to the roads. Big players like Tesla, Google, BMW and Lyft are in the mix, as are startups like Zoox and Voyage. 

Venture capital investment in both the ridehailing industry and the autonomous vehicle space has soared in recent years. Although it's hard to picture a world without Uber, both industries are nascent: A decade ago, there was close to zero investment in either of them. 

On the ridehailing front, investment started to pick up steam in 2014, reaching a peak of just over $16 billion invested across 32 deals around the world in 2016, per PitchBook data. That year, Didi Chuxing brought in $7.3 billion, Uber raised $5.6 billion and Lyft secured $1 billion. This year is on pace to surpass 2016, with nearly $15 billion invested across 28 ridehailing deals so far—not including the Toyota-Uber transaction. 

The story is similar for global VC investment in autonomous vehicle technology. In 2016, more than $6 billion was invested in the space across 39 deals. The following year saw less capital but a greater number of transactions, with 85 total. And this year is set for solid numbers: So far, VCs have invested a total of $3.66 billion over a total of 51 deals. 

For Uber, the investment comes with a hefty valuation pickup. The company was valued at an estimated $62 billion with its most recent funding in May, and now it's back up in the $70 billion range. It never lost its spot as the most valuable VC-backed company in the US, though. 


From – PitchBook

Cloud optimizer Spotinst raises $35 million in private funding

Spotinst, an U.S.-Israeli startup that helps businesses to manage their computer infrastructure across different cloud providers, said it raised $35 million in a private funding round led by Highland Capital, bringing total funds raised to date to $52 million.

Existing investors Leaders Fund, Intel Capital, and Vertex Ventures also participated in the latest funding round, Spotinst said on Tuesday.

Spotinst, founded in 2015, said it helps companies achieve savings of 80 percent on average on regular cloud computing costs, by tapping into excess computing capacity in data centers operated by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

It said it will use the new funds to increase its market share of the cloud optimization space with an artificial intelligence platform.

Spotinst’s customers range from large enterprises including Sony and Ticketmaster to hundreds of small and mid-sized business in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, it said.

From – Reuters
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