Situational awareness: The trade wars are intensifying, with Trump saying he will levy 10% tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports next week, with it increasing to 25% by year-end (well, depending on how influential your lobbyist is). Plus, a bipartisan group of senators today will introduce a bill to reimpose sanctions on ZTE. But stocks are up at the open.
Top of the Morning
Yesterday we noted how Lucid Motors, a Silicon Valley electric car maker that hasn't yet sold any cars, raised over $1 billion from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.
- The news came just days after Chinese EV maker NIO priced its IPO, and amidst all sorts of questions about Tesla's future.
- Lucid's team includes chief technology officer Peter Rawlinson, who was chief engineer for Tesla's Model S.
My gut reaction was that this is a strange time to plug big money into a consumer-focused electric vehicle company, despite Tesla's market cap and last week's NIO IPO. Most of the legacy OEMs are also rolling out EVs — including in the luxury space where Lucid hopes to initially play — which made me think it's a bit like launching a new smartphone maker in 2018.
Why are people going to go with a new brand instead of the best-known one (Tesla/iPhone) or historically reliable providers who will outlive their warranties? In this analogy, Peter Rawlinson is Andy Rubin.
- The Saudi play here is as much strategic or financial, in wanting to diversify away from fossil fuels, but handing me $1 billion also would have diversified away from fossil fuels. Doesn't necessarily make it a great idea.
So I spoke with Rawlinson, who made the following argument:
- Electric vehicles are still in 1.0 mode, so this is more like investing in an iPhone in the age of Blackberry. (Yes, he's comparing the Tesla cars he helped create to Blackberries, which are now virtually obsolete.)
- Most of the legacy automakers are trying to create their own version of Teslas.
- Lucid will be EV 2.0, namely because Rawlinson claims it has developed a much smaller electric drivetrain than has Tesla or anyone else. The result would be a spacious interior environment unlike anything drivers have previously experienced.
Consider me still skeptical, particularly given that design is only one part of an equation that also includes manufacturing, distribution and repair. But less skeptical than I was before...
• Today in Abraaj: Bloomberg reports that investors in the troubled private equity firm's MENA funds prefer a $1 takeover bid from Actis over some richer offers from Persian Gulf-based firms. No, I didn't forget any commas.
• Newsstand talk: NY Post's Keith Kelly reports that Meredith is in talks to sell Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated to a group that includes billionaire Dan Gilbert and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. I hadn't heard thosespecific names, but it tracks to internal Fortune talk that a "group of rich guys" is going to be that title's buyer.
🎧 Pro Rata Podcast: Yesterday we focused on voting via blockchain-based smartphone apps, which is actually being used in West Virginia. My guest is venture capitalist Bradley Tusk, who helped spearhead the nonprofit pilot program. We also discuss Mike Bloomberg's 2020 plans (Tusk ran his last mayoral campaign). Listen here.
- Kia reviews Tusk's new book, about what startups need to know about politicians.
Indigo Ag, a Boston-based developer of crop yield improvement solutions, raised $250 million in Series E funding at what Axios has learned is a $3.5 billion post-money valuation. Return backers include Ballie Gifford, Investment Corp. of Dubai, the Alaska Permanent Fund and Flagship Pioneering.
- Why it's the BFD: Because it's using microbes to fight hunger, and also seeks to upend the entire grains industry with an online marketplace that allows for buy-side quality specifications and identity preservation.
- Go deeper: I first wrote about Indigo two years ago, after visiting the converted milk bottling plant it calls home.
- Bottom line: Indigo's seed coatings are now on around 1 million acres of US farmland, representing thousands of farmers and seven major crops, and around $6 billion worth of inventory has been put into the marketplace since its June launch.
Venture Capital Deals
• Postmates, a San Francisco-based on-demand delivery company, raised $300 million in new funding led by Tiger Global at a post-money valuation just south of $1.2 billion. http://axios.link/dGRZ
• UiPath, a New York-based developer of robotic process automation software, raised $225 million in Series C funding at a valuation north of $3 billion. Sequoia Capital and return backer CapitalG co-led the round, while Accel also participated. www.uipath.com
• Enigma, a New York-based data-as-a-service startup, raised $95 million. Return backer NEA led, and was joined by BB&T, Capital One Growth Ventures, MetLife, Third Point, Glynn Capital, Comcast Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Two Sigma Ventures, and the Partnership Fund for NYC. www.enigma.com
• Roman, a men’s health company focused on ED and smoking cessation products, raised $88 million in Series A funding. FirstMark Capital led, and was joined by SignalFire, Initialized Capital, General Catalyst, Slow Ventures, Sinai Ventures, Torch Capital, BoxGroup and Tusk Ventures. http://axios.link/2rwJ
• Jumo, a provider of loans to the unbanked in Africa, raised $52 million. Goldman Sachs led, and was joined by return backers Proparco, Finnfund, Vostok Emerging Finance, Gemcorp Capital and LeapFrog Investments. http://axios.link/adbv
• Ola, an Indian ride-hail company, raised $50 million at a $4.3 billion valuation from Sailing Capital and CEECF. http://axios.link/fx9a
• Blippar, a London-based visual search and AR platform for brands, raised $37 million in new funding co-led by Candy Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures. http://axios.link/cCHQ
• Quantum Metric, a Colorado Springs-based provider of real-time digital experience analytics, raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Insight Venture Partners. www.quantummetric.com
• Divido, a London-based consumer finance startup that lets users get credit at the point of purchase, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Dawn Capital and DN Capital co-led, with Mastercard and American Express Ventures also participating. http://axios.link/N8qc
• Setoo, a British provider of integrated product insurance products for ecommerce businesses, raised €8 million in Series A funding led by Kamet. http://axios.link/rBX8
Private Equity Deals
• Ardian acquired a minority stake in IWD, a merchandising software publisher for luxury brands. www.iwd.io
⛽ Brookfield Asset Management of Canada is in talks to buy British nuclear energy business NuGen from Japan’s Toshiba, which also has been in lengthy discussions with Korean Electric Power Corp., according to the FT. http://axios.link/I788
• CoolSys, a Brea, Calif.-based refrigeration and HVAC company backed by Audax Private Equity, acquired Wisconsin Rapids-based Ron’s Refrigeration & HVAC. www.coolsys.com
🚑 General Atlantic invested $150 million into Asia Medical, a Chinese operator of hospitals specializing in heart surgery and cardiology.
⛽ Hammerhead Resources (f.k.a. Canadian International Oil), a Calgary-based oil and has company focused on the Alberta Deep Basin, secured up to $300 million in equity funding led by existing shareholder Riverstone Holdings. http://axios.link/AEaZ
🍔 Hyde Park Ventures acquired 16 Five Guys burger shop franchises in Massachusetts.
• Pandora, a listed Danish jeweler, has received takeover interest from private equity firms Bain Capital, Carlyle Group and KKR, per an Italian media report. http://axios.link/wrll
• Warburg Pincus invested $500 million for a 50% stake in NewEase, a Chinese warehousing and logistics platform founded earlier this year. http://axios.link/9AK4
⛽ Warburg Pincus is investing up to $500 million in Tall City III, a Midland, Texas-based oil and gas exploration company focused on the Permian Basin.
• Westhook Capital invested in Metco Landscape, a provider of landscaping installation and maintenance services in Colorado. www.metcolandscape.com
🚑 Equillium, a La Jolla, Calif.-based developer of therapies for autoimmune disorders, filed for an $86 million IPO. The pre-revenue company plans to trade on the Nasdaq (EQ) with Jefferies as lead underwriter. Shareholders include Biocon (18.8% stake). www.equilliumbio.com
• Eventbrite, a San Francisco-based event ticketing platform, increased its IPO price range from $19-$21 to $21-$23. It still plans to offer 10 million shares, but now would have an initial market cap of $1.68 billion, were it to price in the middle. The company will list on the NYSE (EB) with Goldman Sachs as lead underwriter, and has raised over $370 million in VC funding, with Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital listed as the largest outside shareholders.
🚑 Gritstone Oncology, an Emeryville, Calif.-based personalized cancer immunotherapy company, set IPO terms to 6.1 million shares at $13-$15. The pre-revenue company would have a fully-diluted market value of $419 million, were it to price in the middle. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (GRTS) with Goldman Sachs as lead underwriter, and raised over $150 million in VC funding from such firms as Versant Ventures (14% pre-IPO stake), Column Group (14%), Clarus Ventures (10.1%), Frazier Healthcare (8.4%), Trinitas Capital (8.4%), Lilly Asia Ventures (6.3%), Redmile Group (6.3%), GV and Casdin Capital. www.gritstoneoncology.com
• Haidilao, a Chinese hotpot restaurant chain, raised nearly $1 billion in its Hong Kong IPO, valuing the company at around $12 billion. http://axios.link/sGq3
🚑 RA Medical Systems, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based developer of a laser-based platform for treating vascular and dermatological diseases, set IPO terms to 3.3 million shares at $14-$16. It would have a fully-diluted market value of $193 million, were it to price in the middle. It plans to trade on the NYSE (RMED), with Piper Jaffray as lead underwriter. www.ramed.com
🚑 Sutro Biopharma, a South San Francisco-based developer of cancer immunotherapies, set IPO terms to 5 million shares at $14-$16. It would have a fully-diluted market value of $337 million, were it to price in the middle. The company plans to trade on the Nasdaq (STRO) with Cowen as lead underwriter, and raised over $200 million in VC funding from firms like Merck (12.5% pre-IPO stake), Skyline Ventures (11.9%), Alta Partners (11.9%), SV Health Investors (11.1%), Celgene (10.5%), Samsara BioCapital (5.6%), and Vida Ventures (5.6%). www.suturobio.com
• KKR agreed to sell MMI Holdings, a Singapore-based hard-drive component maker it has owned for 11 years, to a Chinese group led by Beijing HBH Innovation Industry Fund, per Bloomberg. The deal is valued at $645 million, including debt. http://axios.link/HtdU
• Avon Products (NYSE: AVP) recently received takeover interest from Brazil's Natura Cosmeticos, per the WSJ. http://axios.link/ebXW
• Bayer hired Morgan Stanley to find a buyer for its 60% stake in German chemical park operator Currenta, which could be valued at upwards of €1 billion, per Reuters. http://axios.link/Ezw4
• Marsh & McLennan (NYSE: MMC) agreed to buy UK-based insurance and reinsurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson (LSE: JLT) for around $5.7 billion. http://axios.link/uVmS
• Univar (NYSE: UNVR) agreed to buy rival chemical distributor Nexeo Solutions (Nasdaq: NXEO) for $1.05 billion in cash and stock (16.4% premium). http://axios.link/ziiI
• Western & Southern Financial Group agreed to buy Gerber Life Insurance from Nestle (SWX: NESN) for $1.55 billion in cash. http://axios.link/3CAH
• Carousel Capital, a Charlotte-based private equity firm, promoted principals Peter Clark and Alan Welch Jr. to partner. www.carouselcapital.com
• Molly Fitzpatrick joined Denver-based private equity firm Mountaingate Capital as a VP. She previously was with he Halifax Group. www.mountaingate.com
• Daniel Lindsey joined Goodwin as a Hong Kong-based partner in the law firm’s private equity practice. He previously was with Kirkland & Ellis. www.goodwinlaw.com
• Jennifer Zhao joined Genstar Capital as a VP of investor relations. She previously was in TPG’s fundraising group. www.genstarcap.com
- Go deeper: The first ripples of AI's economic impact