Situational awareness: Q1 GDP was 2.3%. Better than expected and top Q1 since 2015. But also lower than Q4 and adds a degree of difficulty to achieving Trump's 3% pledge for 2018.
Top of the Morning
While the world becomes more optimistic that Asia's most trenchant geopolitical problem might be solved via diplomacy, business leaders are becoming increasingly pessimistic that the U.S.-China trade row will simmer down.
- Axios' Erica Pandey reports that there was a classified briefing earlier this week with U.S. senators and officials from the National Security Council, intelligence community and Commerce, Defense and Treasury Departments. At issue was the continued efforts to strengthen CFIUS on national security grounds.
- A reminder that the Senate doesn't yet seem too interested in changing the current legislative language, which could cause problems for U.S. venture capital and private equity investors with Chinese limited partners.
- Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf told CNBC that the tensions not only have held up his company's deal for NXP Semiconductor, but also that has chilled other large M&A. On the upside: "In 90 days, it can be very, very different."
- Recommended read: CNNMoney's Julia Horowitz on how the recent U.S. move against ZTE could be the beginning of a series of actions that could sweep up not only Lenovo, but also non-hardware makers like Alibaba and Tencent.
• VCs last night put on a brave face when it comes to SoftBank Vision Fund, insisting that its more a prince-maker than king-maker, at the VentureCrush event in SF. Kia was there.
• ICYMI: Drew Cloud is a popular pundit on student-loan debt, regularly appearing in mainstream media. Except he's not real. He's the fraudulent creation of a Y Combinator-backed online marketplace for student loan refinancing called LendEDU. Kudos to Chronicle of Higher Ed for uncovering the con.
• Fee folly: Private equity firm Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe has agreed to nearly an $800,000 settlement with SEC for not disclosing to investors that it had received fees related to a bulk supplies purchasing deal for portfolio companies.
- PE firms often establish bulk purchasing contracts for portfolio companies, in order to save them all money on everything from notepads to health insurance. Makes sense.
- The trouble can come when vendors promise to pay firms a fee (often a portion of the discount) in order to get the contract, particularly if the firm doesn't then inform/share that kickback with limited partners in its funds.
• Twitter intrigue:
- A DoubleLine spokesman declined to comment when asked to confirm if his boss was talking about Social Capital's Chamath Palihapitiya, but it's hard to imagine it was anyone else. Palihapitiya also isn't talking, but a source close to him insists that he has not shorted Facebook from either his personal portfolio nor from Social Capital's public portfolio.
Docusign, a San Francisco-based e-signature platform, raised $465 million in its IPO. The company priced 21.7 million shares at $29 (above already-increased range), for an initial market value north of $4.4 billion. It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker DOCU, while Morgan Stanley was lead manager.
- Why it's the BFD: Because it means public market premiums for private "unicorns" aren't just reserved for consumer-facing companies like Dropbox and Spotify. Docusign last raised VC funding at around a $3 billion valuation.
- Financials: Docusign reported a $52 million net loss on around $518 million in revenue for its most recent fiscal year. It had raised over $550 million in VC funding from firms like Sigma Partners (12.9% pre-IPO stake), Ignition Partners (11.7%), Frazier Technology Ventures (7.2%), GV and Kleiner Perkins.
- Go deeper with Bloomberg's Lizette Chapman, who details Docusign's 15-year path to IPO, including strategy shifts, acquisition offers, board squabbles and CEO swaps.
Venture Capital Deals
• VIPKid, a Beijing-based platform that connects North American tutors with Chinese students, is in talks to raise $500 million at a valuation north of $3 billion, per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/tK1K
🚑 Innovent Biologics, a Chinese developer of antibodies, raised $150 million in Series E funding. CGPM led, and was joined by Cormorant Asset Management, Rock Springs Capital, Ally Bridge Group and return backers Temasek, Hillhouse, Legend Capital, Lilly Asia Venture and Taikang Insurance. www.innoventbio.com
• RStor, a Saratoga, Calif.-based developer of a hyper-distributed multicloud platform, raised $45 million in Series A funding led by Cisco Investments. http://axios.link/RddQ
• United Auto, a Miami Gardens, Fla.-based provider of non-standard auto insurance, raised $45 million in growth equity funding from Victory Park Capital. www.uaig.com
• Traackr, a San Francisco-based “influencer relationship management platform,” raised $9 million in Series B funding. Workhorse Capital led, and was joined by You & Mr Jones. www.traackr.com
• IFTTT, a San Francisco-based IoT platform, raised $24 million in new funding. Salesforce Ventures led, and was joined by IBM, Chamberlain Group, and Fenox Venture Capital. www.ifttt.com
• Maverick, a new social network for girls and young women, raised $2.7 million in seed funding from Heroic Ventures, BBG Ventures and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. www.beamaverick.com
Private Equity Deals
⛽ Actis has acquired the Mexican gas turbine and wind power portfolio of InterGen for nearly $1.3 billion. www.act.is
• Altas Partners has agreed to acquire University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, a for-profit school that offers on graduate health sciences degrees, from Laureate Education (Nasdaq: LAUR) for around $400 million. http://axios.link/f9Ag
• Cerberus Capital Management has agreed to acquire ECI, a St. Louis-based maker of wire harnesses and other assemblies for consumer and industrial electronics, from KPS Capital Partners. www.ecintl.com
⛽ Gainline Capital Partners has invested in iES, a New York-based provider of grid relationship management software and demand response services to commercial electricity customers.
• Hellman & Friedman and Warburg Pincus (working with Natixis) are among those expected to bid on the payments unit of Swiss stock exchange operator SIX Group, per Reuters. http://axios.link/Z4Zk
• I Squared Capital is in talks to acquire the European and Canadian transportation and logistics unit of China’s HNA Corp. for more than $1.2 billion, per the WSJ. http://axios.link/3dqM
• Vistra, a portfolio company of Baring PE Asia, has acquired Radius, a Boston-based provider of international expansion services, from HgCapital. www.radiusworldwide.com
• Dass, a Brazilian shoemaker, canceled an IPO that had been expected to raise around $287 million, citing weak investment demand. http://axios.link/g9Fx
🚑 Good Doctor, the online healthcare platform of Chinese insurer Ping An, raised $1.12 billion in its Hong Kong IPO. http://axios.link/F9Zw
• Smartsheet, a Bellevue, Wash.-based SaaS platform for managing and automating collaborative work, raised $150 million in its IPO. The company priced 11.6 million shares at $15 per share (above upwardly-revised range), and will trade on the NYSE under ticker SMAR. Morgan Stanley was lead underwriter. Smartsheet reports a $49 million net loss on $111 million in revenue for 2017, and had raised around $120 million from firms like Insight Venture Partners (32.1% pre-IPO stake), Madrona Venture Group (28.4%), Sutter Hill Ventures (5.4%) and Summit Partners. http://axios.link/ssaM
🚑 Bridgepoint is considering a sale process for Care UK, Britain’s largest private provider of HNS services, per the FT. http://axios.link/Ca2b
• OpCapita is seeking a buyer for German discount fashion retailer NKD, which is expected to fetch up to €350 million, per Reuters. http://axios.link/RNkV
• Square (NYSE: SQ) agreed to acquire Weebly, a San Francisco-based provider of website-building tools, for $365 million. Weebly had raised around $80 million in VC funding from firms like Sequoia Capital and Tencent. http://axios.link/YHvu
• Horsley Bridge is raising up to $600 million for its twelfth buyout and growth equity-focused fund-of-funds, per an SEC filing.
• KKR is setting up a social impact investing effort that will be co-led by Robert Antablin (ex-head of KKR’s energy PE group) and KKR public affairs boss Ken Mehlman, according to Reuters. http://axios.link/Yp2S
• Sequoia Capital has secured around $6 billion in commitments for its new global growth fund, per the WSJ. http://axios.link/yLLl
• HGGC has hired: Dan Stanko (ex-Bain Capital) as a principal and Chad Clawson (American Capital), Bennett Nussbaum (Pepsi) and Scott St. Clair (Atrium) as executive directors. www.hggc.com
• Simon Lindsay, a Citigroup M&A banker, has been named director-general of the UK’s Takeover Panel. http://axios.link/p91V
• Rafi Syed has quietly stepped down as a principal with Khosla Ventures in order to join Bow Capital as a general partner.
• Michael Zeisser has stepped down as chairman of U.S. investments for Alibaba, per Recode, He’s expected to be replaced by Peter Stern, who also may assume Zeisser’s board observer roles at Lyft and Magic Leap. http://axios.link/h3Gp
- Techlash boomerang: Facebook shares have regained around 2/3 of their Cambridge Analytica-related losses, through market close yesterday.
- Bigger picture: The FANGs have gotten their teeth back, driven by strong Q1 earnings. Particularly Amazon, which opened today at an all-time high and as of this writing is just $50 billion away from Apple's world-leading market cap.