Axios Pro Rata

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December 01, 2023

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Top of the Morning

Illustration of two intertwined gavels.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

America's antitrust cops have been busy in 2023, seeking to either block or head off a wide range of mergers.

  • But what if the regulators themselves were merged?

The big picture: Both the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are charged with enforcing federal antitrust laws.

  • DOJ has sole jurisdiction in a small number of industries, including telecom and airlines. For everything else, the two agencies horse-trade via a process called clearance.
  • Companies typically don't know which agency will review their merger proposal, sometimes until there's a media leak.

Driving the news: During the NYT DealBook Summit earlier this week, former DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim asked current FTC chair Lina Khan if we still need "competition in the enforcement of competition."

  • Khan acknowledged areas of overlap but argued for maintaining a "complementary" status quo in which the FTC has some broader civil authorities than the DOJ (which itself has the benefit of criminal prosecutorial authority).
  • She also echoed a recent GAO report that found there is little conflict between the two agencies, despite past friction.

Zoom in: I followed up last night with Delrahim, who is complimentary toward Khan but believes she's wrong on this issue.

  • He says all antitrust should fall under DOJ, for the sake of market certainty and regulatory efficacy, and that the FTC could be bolstered via the additions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Delrahim also believes there's bipartisan support for such a move, and noted that new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) introduced antitrust consolidation legislation in 2021.
  • Ashley Gold, who covers tech policy for Axios, says she doesn't expect Congress to make the change but does think it could happen organically by not increasing FTC funding at the same levels as it does the DOJ.

The bottom line: Antitrust regulators are inserting themselves more into the M&A landscape, which means they will become more subject to scrutiny.

The BFD

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill in the shape of a loaf of bread

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Panera Bread, the quick-serve restaurant chain bought by JAB Holding for $7.5 billion in 2017, has filed confidential IPO papers, per the FT.

Why it matters: This is the latest in a recent spate of high-profile companies that are lining up for early 2024 IPOs, including Shein and Reddit, although none have shown enough conviction to flip their S-1 filings.

Backstory: A SPAC formed by restaurateur Danny Meyer previously agreed to invest in Panera's IPO, rather than do a reverse merger, but that agreement expired in mid-2022. Meyer's SPAC never found another target and eventually delisted.

The bottom line: JAB last year put both Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bros Bagels under the Panera umbrella, and this past August added a CFO who helped take both Dunkin' and Yeti Coolers public.

Venture Capital Deals

MyLight150, a French solar energy systems maker, raised €100m co-led by Eiffel Investment Group, Azora Capital and Andera Partners. https://axios.link/46D9p64

• Paysend, a London-based multicurrency payments firm, raised $65m from Growth Capital, One Peak, Hermes GPE Innovation Fund and Mastercard. https://axios.link/3N1AFnx

Stensul, a New York-based marketing creation platform, raised $34.5m in Series C funding. Sageview Capital led, and was joined by USVP, Javelin Venture Partners, Uncork Capital, Edith Harbaugh and Lowercase Capital. www.stensul.com

🚑 Bright Uro, an Irvine, Calif.-based medical device company focused on the lower urinary tract, raised $23m in Series A funding led by Laborie Medical Technologies. www.brighturo.com

Kahuna Workforce Solutions, a Houston-based provider of skills management software for frontline workers, raised $21m in Series B funding led by Resolve Growth Partners. https://axios.link/47OThiO

Safi, a London-based B2B marketplace for trading recyclables, raised $19.5m in Series A funding. Nosara Capital led, and was joined by insiders LowerCarbon and Transition. https://axios.link/3N3JsFx

Picklebet, an Australian operator and media hybrid, raised A$15m in Series A funding from backers like DraftKings. https://axios.link/3R58iWK

AnotherBall, a Singapore-based virtual entertainment company, raised $12.7m in seed funding. Hashed and ANRI co-led, and were joined by Sfermion, HashKey Capital, Everyrealm, Ethereal Ventures, Emoote, Global Brain and Globis Capital Partners. https://axios.link/3R9KaTg

🚑 Culmination Bio, a clinical insights spinout from Intermountain Health, raised $10m in first-round funding from Merck Global Health Innovation Fund and Amgen Ventures. https://axios.link/47CUYQL

iPeakoin, a Singapore-based neobank, raised $10m in Series A funding led by ZhenFund. https://axios.link/46Sp5m9

Enfuce, a Finnish card issuer, raised €8.5m. Vitruvian Partners led, and was joined by Maki.vc and Visa. https://axios.link/3GnJBzX

Valid8 Financial, a Boulder, Colo.-based provider of forensic accounting solutions, raised $6m in Series A funding. Silverton Partners led, and was joined by Touchdown Ventures, First Trust, CPA.com and Capital Midwest. www.valid8financial.com

Private Equity Deals

Advent International, Blackstone, CVC Capital Partners, and EQT each are bidding for minority stake in the broadcasting rights for Germany's top soccer leagues, which could fetch up to €1b, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3sV3GL5

Ariel Investments acquired nearly a 60% stake in My Code, publisher of Spanish-language newspapers El Diario and La Opinión, from Falfurrias Capital Partners at around a $400m valuation, per the WSJ. https://axios.link/3R0zmXn

Rotunda Capital Partners invested Door Pro America, a Gainesville, Va.-based DTC installer and service provider of residential garage doors. www.doorproamerica.com

🌎 Sustainable Development Capital of London acquired Volery, a Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm focused on the energy transition. www.sdclgroup.com

Public Offerings

HPS Investment Partners, a New York-based private credit firm with $106b in AUM, filed confidential IPO papers, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3uFFNYi

Liquidity Events

General Atlantic may seek to sell its 25% stake in Argus Media, a London-based oil pricing data business that could be valued north of £4b, per Reuters. This comes as Hg is already seeking to sell its own 25% position. https://axios.link/411QG2F

Hahn & Co. is considering a sale process for SK Shipping, a Seoul-based logistics firm that could fetch around $10b (including debt), per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3uBls6l

🚑 Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) acquired Laminar, a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based maker of cardiac implants for reducing strokes, for $400m upfront. Laminar had raised over $20m from firms like Santé Ventures. https://axios.link/3t0ZlWM

Prosperity7, a growth equity unit of Saudi energy giant Aramco, was forced by CFIUS to sell its shares in SF-based AI chip startup Rain, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3R4hhrx

Yieldstreet, a VC-backed multi-asset alternative investment platform, agreed to buy Cadre, a New York-based real estate tech firm. Cadre had raised around $130m in VC funding from backers like Andreessen Horowitz, Thrive Capital, General Catalyst, Founders Fund, Spur Capital Partners, Khosla Ventures, Lakestar and Jaws Ventures. https://axios.link/47Ed8Bp

More M&A

Lufthansa, the German air carrier, won't proceed with a sale process for a minority stake in its maintenance and repair unit (Lufthansa Technik), per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3RykXTX

Faherty, a New York-based clothing brand and retailer, is seeking a minority investor, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/47Jeifi

Frasers (LSE: FRAS) plans to buy bankrupt German sporting goods retailer SportScheck. https://axios.link/47ShuVe

Insight Enterprises (Nasdaq: NSIT) acquired SADA, an LA-based Google Cloud consultancy. https://axios.link/3sVlUvX

Kinepolis (Brussels: KIPO), a European movie theater operator, opted against bidding for Canada's Cineplex (TSX: CGX) because of antitrust concerns, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/41aPsCn

UltraTech Cement of India agreed to buy the cement unit of rival Kesoram Industries for around $645m in stock. https://axios.link/46EBLww

Fundraising

Bethnal Green Ventures of London raised a £33m fund that will allocate at least half its deals to women-founded startups. https://axios.link/3R0ByOr

🌎 Resolve Ventures, a Dublin-based growth capital firm, launched a €30m climate impact fund. https://axios.link/3QUtMWs

It's Personnel

Anna Patterson is stepping down as managing partner of Gradient Ventures, the AI-focused VC group of Alphabet that she helped form in 2017.

KKR promoted a whole bunch of people to partners and managing directors. The list.

John Tabis joined VC firm M13 as "head of venture building." He previously founded The Bouqs Co. https://axios.link/415sVXr

Final Numbers

Change in Cigna and Humana stock prices
Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

Neither Cigna nor Humana shareholders seem too excited about a possible merger between the health insurance giants.

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