Axios Pro Rata

A green watering can with a dollar sign painted on it.

February 26, 2024

Top of the Morning

Illustration of the Byju "B" logo sitting on a wooden stool and wearing a dunce cap.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Byju's last year was India's most valuable startup, worth $22 billion in a new funding round.

  • And the ed-tech company was prized beyond its price, offering remote tutoring in a country where over half the population lives in rural areas.

Fast forward: Byju's is now the dumpster fire that other dumpster fires look at with pity.

Driving the news: Venture capital shareholders, who've invested over $5 billion into the company, late last week held an emergency general meeting to remove founding CEO Byju Raveendran, who they've accused of mismanaging everything from compliance to finances to governance.

  • Raveendran didn't attend the EGM, but responded by calling it invalid.
  • A court had denied his request to stay the EGM, but did hold the results in abeyance until after a full hearing (which could occur this week).
  • There's also a parallel legal process tied to a $200 million rights issue, which reportedly would cut the company's valuation by around 99%.

Zoom in: All of the investor reps on Byju's board quit last year, claiming they couldn't access recent and accurate financial data. As part of the EGM resolution, a new board would be formed that could include Raveendran, but not be controlled by him.

  • Two investors tell Axios that they don't really know how much of Byju's they currently own, because data tied to the rights issue differs from their internal documentation.
  • Raveendran didn't return an emailed request for comment.

The big picture: It's not entirely clear why investors are bothering with all the legal maneuvering, outside of pique.

  • Even if Byju's somehow retained its unicorn status, it's unclear the company would have more equity than debt. Moreover, its U.S. unit filed for bankruptcy protection earlier just two weeks ago.
  • "It may become a total write-off, but we don't know because we don't have enough financial visibility," one source explains. "There certainly could be pockets of profitability, or products that could be profitable with different leadership."

The BFD

Illustration of a dollar sign made of syringes.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Baseimmune, a British startup that uses AI to develop vaccines for future pathogen mutations, raised £9 million in Series A funding co-led by MSD Global Health Innovation Fund and IQ Capital.

Why it's the BFD: Lots of the AI chatter right now is "what comes after chatbots," and the most likely (and consequential) answers are in biotech.

Other investors include Hoxton Ventures, Creator Fund, Beast Ventures, and Maki.vc.

The bottom line: "Investment in AI-boosted vaccine development has grown since the Covid-19 pandemic, as has interest in the idea of adaptable jabs that can be quickly updated to deal with new virus mutations." — Ian Johnston & Michael Peel, FT

Venture Capital Deals

🚑 Abridge, a Pittsburgh-based clinical documentation startup, raised $150m in Series C funding. Lightspeed and Redpoint Ventures co-led, and were joined by CVS Health Ventures, Spark Capital, USV, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Wittington Ventures https://axios.link/3Tf0LY4

• Xcelerate, a Singaporean GRC and ESG platform, raised over US$25m. Federated Hermes Private Equity led, and was joined by Altair Capital and Exacta Capital Partners. www.xcelerateltd.com

• FlowGPT, a quasi-app store for GPT models, raised $10m in led by Goodwater, with insider DCM participating. https://axios.link/4bOaYlk

• Miruku, a New Zealand-based molecular farming startup for dairy proteins and fats, raised US$5m. Motion Capital led, and was joined by NZVC and existing investor Movac. https://axios.link/3UQXSO9

• Sway, an SF-based developer of biodegradable alternatives to plastic, raised $5m in seed funding. Third Nature Investments led, and was joined by The Helm, Alante Capital, BAM Ventures, and Superorganism. https://axios.link/3wotX5L

🚑 ISHI Health, a San Diego-based virtual clinic specializing in cardiac care, raised $4m led by Takeda Digital Ventures. www.ishi.health

🚑 Tuned, an employer-focused hearing care platform, raised $3.2m in seed extension funding, per Axios Pro. Unum Group led, and was joined by Distributed Ventures. https://axios.link/49sJ3pB

🎵 Bolero, a French music rights royalties marketplace, raised €2m in seed funding led by XVC Tech. https://axios.link/3T0jFk6

• Prefer, a Singaporean maker of bean-free coffee, raised $2m. Forge Ventures led, and was joined by Better Bite Ventures, Sopoong Ventures, Seeds Capital, Entrepreneur First, and Pickup Coffee. https://axios.link/49q4k2W

Private Equity Deals

• Astorg agreed to acquire a majority stake in Steliau, a French distributor of passive electronic components, from B&Capital. www.steliau-technology.com

• KKR agreed to buy Broadcom's (Nasdaq: AVGO) remote access unit for around $4b. https://axios.link/3TcT4BC

• Pacific Avenue Capital Partners agreed to buy the air filtration unit of Italy's Sogefi (Milan: SGFI) for €374m. https://axios.link/3Id74EY

🚑 Thomas H. Lee Partners agreed to buy Agiliti (NYSE: AGTI), a Minneapolis-based provider of health care tech management and services, for around $2.5b (including debt), or $10 per share (35% premium over Friday's closing price). https://axios.link/3uOh5FE

Public Offerings

• TPG (Nasdaq: TPG) priced a secondary offering of around 15.5m shares. https://axios.link/3uJiNbn

• Viking Holdings, a cruise operator backed by TPG, said it's filed confidential IPO papers. https://axios.link/3uM0IJO

SPAC Stuff

🚑 Silexion, an Israeli oncology biotech, agreed to go public at an implied $62.5m pre-deal equity value via Moringa Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: MACA), which previously had a deal to buy Israeli online travel booking company Holisto. https://axios.link/42Q7SJv

Liquidity Events

• Cerberus Capital Management agreed to sell Cyanco, a Sugar Land, Texas-based sodium cyanide producer, to Australia's Orica (ASX: ORI) for US$640m. https://axios.link/3UVpWzU

• Intapp (Nasdaq: INTA) agreed to acquire Delphai, a Berlin-based provider of applied AI for firmographic data automation, structuring, and intelligence. Delphai had raised around $5m from firms like MaasInvest, Airbridge Equity Partners, and Hyle Ventures. https://axios.link/49yjrYw

• Kinnevik agreed to sell a 19.8% stake in listed Swedish telco TeleAB to French billionaire Xavier Niel for around $1.3b. https://axios.link/3URDf4k

More M&A

• Alcoa (NYSE: AA) agreed to buy Australia's Alumina (ASX: AWC) for US$2.2b. https://axios.link/49xxeyj

• Ant Group outbid Citadel Securities to buy Credit Suisse's investment bank venture in China, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3SKxvqk

⚡ ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) is seeking to sell its shale assets in Argentina for around $1b, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3P0vDJ5

• Saint-Gobain (Paris: SGO) agreed to buy Australian building materials maker CSR (ASX: CSR) for A$4.5b, or A$9 per share (33% premium to price before deal talk reports). https://axios.link/49tSo08

🎵 Universal Music Group acquired a majority stake in Mavin Global, a Nigerian music label focused on Afrobeats artists. https://axios.link/3SVpDmc

Fundraising

• Goldman Sachs secured $1b from Mubadala to invest in Asia private credit opportunities. https://axios.link/4bNMith

• Refract Ventures of New York has secured around $10m for its $30m-targeted debut fund, per an SEC filing. Its co-founders are Kerry Kellogg (ex-3L), Caesar Djavaherian (Carbon Health), and Ayo Omojola (co-founder of NYC Beach Bus and Snow Bus).

🌎 Verdane raised €1.1b for a fund focused on European digitization and decarbonization investments. https://axios.link/42QTtg6

It's Personnel

• Jared Moberg joined Pruven Capital as a principal. He previously was with K1 Investment Management. https://axios.link/3OUCJyK

• Hildred Capital promoted Wael Fayad and Stephen Hallenbeck to partners. www.hildredcapital.com

Final Numbers

U.S. M&A activity chart
Source: LSEG. Data through Feb. 22, 2024

U.S. M&A activity in 2024 is more than double than it was at this point in 2023, and is dominating the global deal market, according to LSEG.

  • Domestic activity reached $306 billion, up 140% from the year-earlier period. That accounts for 67% of worldwide deal activity, which itself is up 64% overall.
  • U.S. private equity-backed deal activity is up 138% to $68 billion, while global PE-backed activity is up 74% to $98.5 billion.

Thanks for reading Axios Pro Rata, and to copy editor Bryan McBournie! Please ask your friends, colleagues, and tutors to sign up.