Top of the Morning
Some very short notes to kick us off this morning, as what I planned to write didn't quite come together in time...
• With interest: Curo Group, the parent company of payday lender Speedy Cash, last night priced its IPO at the low end of its $14-$16 range, for a total take of $93 million.
- Remember that the White House promised to provide a list of instances when CFPB didn't act in the best interests of consumers, but then never actually provided it. Perhaps investors worried that coming CFPB rules on payday will remain in place under the new guard, since there has been no explicit disavowal of them yet.
• Today in SoftBank: The tech world's most prolific investor is at it again this morning, plugging $450 million into real estate platform Compass, less than a month after Compass announced a $100 million Series E round led by Fidelity at a $1.7 billion pre-money valuation.
- I've run into SoftBank Vision folks a few times in the past month, and they appear genuinely perplexed by the amount of attention they are receiving. In turn, I am genuinely perplexed by their perplexion.
- Word is that SoftBank is in talks to invest in Wag, the on-demand dog-walking platform.
• On the docket: Definers Group has fired back at Shervin Pishevar's defamation lawsuit, asking that the court dismiss a complaint that is "delusional and entirely without merit."
• Tax time: Remember that when companies and investment firms say they've "run the numbers" on the tax plans, they're doing so with a 20% corporate rate. Not with the 22% rate that Trump now seems like he'd be willing to accept.
• Sadly serious question: If you are investing in South Korea right now, how are you assessing war risk?
• Sheryl says what? Bob Iger is supposed to step down as Walt Disney Co. CEO in 2019, but the WSJ reports that Rupert Murdoch is asking he stick around longer, if Disney succeeds in its $40 billion takeover attempt for 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets. It's the sort of thing that makes headhunters giddy, as the "Who will replace Bob" game has run rampant since his original retirement announcement.
GVC Holdings (LSE: GVC) said that it is "detailed discussions" to acquire a majority stake in British bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral Group (LSE: LCL), in a deal that could value Ladbrokes at upwards of $5.2 billion.
- Why it's the BFD: Because this is the third time these two companies have held merger talks, but this one by far seems the furthest along. The result would be a gambling company in the FTSE 100. It also comes amid a secular shift from physical betting parlors to digital, broader sector consolidation and a UK regulatory review that could cap the amount people are allowed to wager at fixed-odds gaming terminals (e.g., slot machines).
- Bottom line: "Ladbrokes Coral, whose traditional betting shops in the U.K.'s town centers are fading, would get more exposure to the expanding digital gaming business, while GVC could reach more potential customers for its online platforms." — Eric Pfanner, Bloomberg
Venture Capital Deals
• Ofo, a Chinese bike-share company, has raised at least $1 billion in new funding from firms like Alibaba, per the FT. http://axios.link/eUA7
• Movile, a Brazil-based online marketplace company, has raised $82 million in new funding from Naspers and Innova Capital. Most of the proceeds will be used to increase Movile's stake in Latin American food delivery company iFood. http://axios.link/ljjy
🌽 Indigo Agriculture, a Charlestown, Mass.-based developer of crop yield improvement solutions, has raised $47 million in new Series D funding (round total now $203m) at nearly a $1.5 billion post-money valuation. New investors on the second close include Investment Corporation of Dubai. http://axios.link/1Tbp
• WorldRemit, a digital money transfer service focused on emerging markets, has raised $40 million in Series C funding at a reported $670 million valuation. LeapFrog Investments led, and was joined by return backers Accel and TCV. http://axios.link/OQxj
• Fetch Robotics, a San Jose, Calif.-based platform for collaborative robotic solutions, has raised $25 million in Series B funding. Sway Ventures led, and was joined by return backers O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Shasta Ventures and SoftBank. http://axios.link/cI5r
🚑 Metacrine, a San Diego-based biotech focused on liver, GI and metabolic disease, has raised $22 million in Series B funding. NEA led, and was joined by return backers Arch Venture Partners, Polaris Partners, venBio and Alexandria Venture Investments. http://axios.link/nCC2
• Prevoty, an automation application security startup, has raised $13 million in Series B funding. Trident Capital Cybersecurity led, and was joined by return backers like USVP. www.prevoty.com
🚑 ParaGen Technologies, a Columbus, Ohio-based biotech focused on tissue engineering, has raised $4.1 million in seed funding led by Ikove Venture Partners. www.paragentechnologies.com
• Contrast Security, a Los Altos, Calif.-based developer of "self-protecting" software, has raised an undisclosed amount of new Series C funding from AXA Strategic Ventures and Microsoft Ventures. This is on top of a $30 million first close announced in October, and led by Battery Ventures. http://axios.link/gJSR
• BitPay, an Atlanta-based blockchain payments technology platform, said that it is raising a $30 million in Series B round that would be led by Aquiline Technology Growth (a venture affiliate of Aquiline Capital Partners). http://axios.link/YISg
Private Equity Deals
• Baring Private Equity is nearing a deal to buy Prometric, a Baltimore-based provider of educational testing services, for around $1 billion (including debt), per Reuters. http://axios.link/Sl2T
• The Blackstone Group has acquired a majority stake in TITUS, an Ottawa-based provider of data classification and categorization solutions. http://axios.link/J99I
• Caisse de depot et placement du Québec and TowerBrook Capital Partners have submitted bids for a minority stake in Fives, a French engineering group owned by Ardian, per Reuters. The deal could value Fives at around €1.5 billion. http://axios.link/I5GK
• Carlton Group, a Toronto-based provider of engagement and reward technology SaaS solutions, has secured an undisclosed amount of growth equity funding from H.I.G. Capital. www.carlton.ca
🚑 New Mountain Capital has agreed to acquire and merge tech-enabled payer service providers CenseoHealth (Dallas) and Advance Health (Chantilly, Va. – sellers include Summit Partners and Noro-Moseley Partners). www.newmountaincapital.com
• Fosun International of China is prepping a $500 million-plus IPO for its tourism business, which includes resort chain Club Med, according to IFR. http://axios.link/qIfi
🚑 Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a Raritan, N.J.-based in vitro diagnostics company owned by The Carlyle Group, has hired Goldman Sachs, Barclays and J.P. Morgan to work on an early 2018 IPO that could value the company at $7 billion (including debt), per Bloomberg. http://axios.link/vLPR
🚑 Smith & Nephew (NYSE: SNN) has acquired Rotation Medical, a Plymouth, Minn.-based maker of medical devices for treating rotator cuff diseases, for upwards of $210 million (including $125m upfront in cash). Rotation Medical has raised around $60 million in VC funding from firms like Pappas Ventures, NEA and Life Sciences Partners. www.rotationmedical.com
🚑 Carmot Therapeutics has signed a drug discovery collaboration and licensing agreement with Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) that could be worth upwards of $240 million, and involves candidates aimed at such conditions as Parkinson's disease. Berkeley, Calif.-based Carmot has raised over $10 million in VC funding from firms like Column Group. http://axios.link/8jW0
• Federated Investors (NYSE: FII) is considering a takeover bid for UK-based Hermes Investment Management, which has nearly $41 billion in assets under management, according to Reuters. http://axios.link/1WIE
🚑 Amorchem Ventures, a Canadian seed-stage firm focused on life sciences, has raised C$44.2 million for its second fund. http://axios.link/PwvH
Blue Point Capital Partners, a Cleveland-based private equity firm focused on lower middle-markets, is raising up to $600 million for its fourth fund, per an SEC filing. www.bluepointcapital.com
• Frontier Capital, a Charlotte-based growth equity firm, has closed its fifth fund with $700 million in capital commitments. www.frontiercapital.com
⛽ Kimmeridge Energy Management, a private equity firm focused on unconventional U.S. oil and gas assets, has closed its fourth fund with $400 million. It also has secured another $150 million for co-investment opportunities. www.kimmeridgeenergy.com
• Runway Growth Credit Fund of Chicago has raised $275 million for an early-stage lending vehicle, including a commitment from Oaktree Capital Management. http://axios.link/woDa
• Cathy Beaudoin, former president of Amazon Fashion, has joined General Atlantic as a special advisor. www.generalatatlantic.com
• Jo Bertram, who recently stepped down as UK head for Uber, has joined EQT Ventures as an executive-in-residence. http://axios.link/Y9zn
• Fraser Robinson is stepping down as Uber's head of EMEA business development. He had been a lead on Saudi Arabia's $3.5 billion investment into Uber last year. http://axios.link/BJyP
• Peter Curley has joined NextWave Ventures as director of technology platforms. He previously was a director with Imprimatur Capital. www.nextwave.vc
- Go deeper: Timing of tax bills