Axios Pro Rata

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January 18, 2024

Top of the Morning

Illustration of the stripes of an American flag, with the Southern Cross from the Australian flag in place of the 50 stars. A spotlight is on the Southern Cross.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. private equity is about to get a big boost from Australia's largest pension fund.

Driving the news: AustralianSuper, which manages nearly US$200 billion, tells Axios that it plans to double its global private equity exposure over the next five years, with between 70-80% of those new dollars heading to the U.S.

  • It's also planning to double the size of its U.S. investment team, which this month began operating out of larger digs at 1251 6th Avenue in New York City.
  • The firm's global private equity head also works out of that office.

Drill down: AustralianSuper wants around one-third of its U.S. private equity investments to be in funds, another third in syndicated co-investments, and the remainder in underwriting deals alongside GP partners.

  • "If you can get 4-6% above equities but have to pay 6% in fees — under the 2/20 model — that's too difficult for us, and Australian regulators are very fee sensitive," explains AustralianSuper chief executive Paul Schroder. "But if we split it across three buckets, maybe we can get it closer to 2% in aggregate, which becomes a vastly more attractive proposition."
  • Schroder adds that he's not interested in the direct origination model that became popular among large Canadian pensions, saying he believes they "underestimated the power of intergenerational relationships and the skills required ... we will never be too big for our boots."

Look ahead: AustralianSuper doesn't plan to add another U.S. office, but may eventually open a satellite in India.

The bottom line: Some are questioning the viability of U.S. private equity in a higher rate environment, but the industry still has good friends with deep wallets.

The BFD

Illustration of a steam roller rolling out a hundred dollar bill and stretching it out.  

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Blue Owl is seeking to syndicate some of the passive minority interest it acquired last year in Stonepeak, an infrastructure and real assets investment firm, Axios has learned.

Why it's the BFD: Pricing on Blue Owl's original deal, which hasn't been previously reported, reflects how headline numbers on GP stake sales only tell part of the story.

  • Blue Owl invested around $2 billion into Stonepeak at approximately a $13.5 billion valuation, per multiple sources.
  • At first glance, that looks like a massive overpay, considering that BlackRock is spending $12.5 billion to buy larger Stonepeak rival Global Infrastructure Partners.
  • But it arguably becomes more reasonable when you realize that Global Infrastructure Partners will retain carry on all existing funds and 40% of carry on future funds.

The bottom line: These prices could set comps for big institutional investors looking to expand their infrastructure businesses via acquisition.

Venture Capital Deals

Everphone, a German phone-as-a-service provider, raised €270m in Series D finding from Citigroup, Phoenix Insurance, and KfW. https://axios.link/3tVpo1U

Digital Onboarding, a Boston-based customer engagement platform for banks and credit unions, raised $58m from Volition Capital. https://axios.link/48AI5aj

Flowdesk, a Paris-based digital asset trading firm, raised $50m in Series B funding. Cathay Innovation led, and was joined by Cathay Ledger Fund, Eurazeo, ISAI, Speedinvest, BPI, and Ripple. www.flowdesk.co

Pomelo, an Argentinian payments infrastructure provider, raised $40m in Series B funding. Kaszek led, and was joined by Monashees, Index Ventures, S32, TQ Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. https://axios.link/3vGBZ9R

International Battery Co., an Indian developer of lithium-ion batteries for EVs, raised $35m. RTP Global led, and was joined by Beenext and Veda VC. TechCrunch reports it soon will seek $70m for a Series A round. https://axios.link/3O7PHsO

Lightship, a Boulder, Colo.-based electric RV maker, raised $34m in Series B funding. Obvious Ventures and Prelude Ventures co-led, and were joined by Allegis Capital, RV manufacturer Thor Industries, and TechNexus Venture Collaborative. https://axios.link/3Hl7PeC

Kashable, a New York-based provider of credit and financial wellness solutions as employee benefits, raised $25.6m in Series B funding. Revolution Ventures and Moneta Venturesco-led, and were joined by EJF Capital and Krillion Ventures. www.kashable.com

TrusTrace, a Swedish product traceability and compliance SaaS startup, raised $24m. Circularity Capital led, and was joined by Industrifonden and Fairpoint Capital. https://axios.link/48DvP92

🚑 Prota Therapeutics, an Australian developer of peanut allergy treatments, raised US$21m in equity and debt funding led by Singapore's SGI. www.protatherapeutics.com

ZymoChem, a San Leandro, Calif.-based bio-manufacturing platform, raised $21m in Series A funding funding led by Breakout Ventures. https://axios.link/48MZ6xI

SeeTree, an Israeli tree-health monitoring service for orchards and forests, raised a $17.5m in Series C funding. HSBC Asset Management and EBRD co-led, and were joined by OurCrowd, SmartAgro, Hanaco Ventures, Mindest Ventures, the Kitchen Fund, Orbia Ventures and Citrosuco, per AgFunder News. https://axios.link/420t6DU

Kiln, a crypto staking platform, raised $17m. 1kx led, and was joined by Crypto.com, IOSG, Wintermute Ventures, KXVC, and LBank. https://axios.link/4aZ3P1b

Recraft, an SF-based AI graphic design generator, raised $12m in Series A funding. Khosla Ventures and Nat Friedman co-led, and were joined by RTP Global, Abstract VC, Basis Set Ventures, and Elad Gil. www.recraft.ai

Overmoon, a San Rafael, Calif.-based vacation rental platform, raised $10m from NFX, Khosla Ventures, Camber Creek, 1Sharpe, and Sunsar Capital. https://axios.link/3vDzDIN

Kusari, a Ridgefield, Conn.-based software supply chain security startup, raised $8m from J2 Ventures, Glasswing Ventures, and Unusual Ventures. www.kusari.dev

Land Moto, a Cleveland-based electric motorcycle startup, raised $3m led by an SPV called Nunc Coepi Ventures. https://axios.link/48AwcRJ

Lative, an Irish provider of B2B sales performance and planning software, raised $3m in seed funding led by Elkstone Ventures. www.lative.io

Canza Finance, a Nigerian DeFi FX startup, raised $2.3m. Polychain Capital led, and was joined by Protocol Labs, Blizzard Fund, 99 Capital, Stratified Capital, and Hyperithm. https://axios.link/3O6AuY

Depasify, a Madrid-based passive digital asset investing startup, raised €2m from JME Ventures and GoHub Ventures. https://axios.link/3SlTXHp

Obelisk Studio, a Cyprus-based gaming studio, raised $2m from The Games Fund. www.obeliskstd.com

Private Equity Deals

Charlesbank Capital Partners invested in Searchlight Cyber, a British dark web intelligence firm. www.slcyber.io

Convergence Partners acquired Datacentrix, a South African data center operator. https://axios.link/3SnnFvP

CVC Capital Partners and Czech power utility CEZ each are expected to bid next week on a 55% stake in GasNet, a Czech gas distribution network being sold by Macquarie and the Australian Retirement Trust, per Reuters. https://axios.link/47AmPAc

Global Infrastructure Partners is in talks to buy up to a 49% stake in MMC Port Holdings, Malaysia's largest ports operator, at around a $6.4b enterprise value, per Reuters. https://axios.link/426wKwo

Hidden Harbor Capital Partners acquired R.L. James, a Ft. Myers, Fla.-based provider of exterior restoration and remediation services. www.rljames.com

IBS Software, an Indian portfolio company of Apax Partners, paid $90m to buy Above Property Services, a Naples, Fla.-based provider of hotel management software. https://axios.link/3RWVu5o

Italian regulators approved KKR's €22b agreed to buy Telecom Italia's (Milan: TIT) landline network. https://axios.link/48AWxiF

🚑 Pyx Health, a Tucson, Ariz.-based social health platform owned by TT Capital Partners, acquired InquisitHealth, a River Edge, N.J.-based population health management company. www.pyxhealth.com

Ruppert Landscape, a Laytonsville, Md.-based portfolio company of Knox Lane, acquired South Carolina-based The Greenery of Charleston. www.ruppertlandscape.com

Public Offerings

Birkenstock shares fell around 8% at this morning's open, after releasing its first quarterly earnings since going public last fall. Go deeper.

🚑 CG Oncology, an Irvine, Calif.-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, set IPO terms to 11.8m shares at $16-$18. It would have a $1b fully diluted value, were it to price in the middle, and plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON).

  • CG raised around $317m in VC funding from ORI Capital (11.3% pre-IPO stake), Decheng Capital (10.4%), Longitude Venture Partners (9.5%), Foresite Capital (6.3%), TCGX (6.3%), Ally Bridge Group (5.7%), Avidity Partners, BVF Partners, Janus Henderson Investors, RA Capital Management, and Acorn Bioventures.

Liquidity Events

AE Industrial Partners sold American Pacific, a Cedar City, Utah-based provider of chemicals to U.S. government military and space programs, to NewMarket (NYSE: NEU) for $700m in cash. www.ampac.us

Bowmark Capital hired Houlihan Lokey to find a buyer for Focus Group, a British tech services firm that could fetch up to £700m, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3u09zXW

🚑 GI Partners and TA Associates hired Goldman Sachs and William Blair to find a buyer for Netsmart, an Overland Park, Kan.-based electronic health records firm that could fetch more than $5b (including debt), per Reuters. https://axios.link/423Axuc

LiveRamp (NYSE: RAMP) agreed to acquire Habu, an SF-based provider of data collaboration marketing tech, for $200m in cash and stock. Habu had raised $40m in VC funding from super{set}, Wing VC, Snowflake Ventures, Ridge Ventures, and Norwest Venture Partners. https://axios.link/3U0s0WY

More M&A

Haldiram's, an Indian snack maker, is in talks to buy Prataap Snacks, a listed rival with a $350m market cap, per Reuters. https://axios.link/48WFmI6

India's government plans to sell a 3.5% stake in state-run renewable energy utility NHPC. https://axios.link/3U4GZz3

Red Ventures, a Fort Mill, S.C.-based firm backed by General Atlantic and Silver Lake, is seeking to sell CNET, the tech news and reviews site it bought from ViacomCBS in 2020, with the hopes of fetching at least $250m, per Axios. https://axios.link/41ZMCAG

Sekisui House (Tokyo: 1928), a Japanese homebuilder, agreed to buy Denver-based homebuilder MDC Holdings (NYSE: MDC) for around $4.9b in cash, or $63 per share (19% premium to yesterday's closing price). https://axios.link/3O3lkDt

🚑 Sun Pharma of India has agreed to buy the 21.5% stake it doesn't already hold in Israel's Taro Pharmaceutical Industries (NYSE: TARO) for $43 per share in cash, or around $348m. https://axios.link/48ZMeEm

Fundraising

Act One Ventures, an LA-based early-stage firm, raised $73m for its third fund. www.actoneventures.com

Aramco, the Saudi oil giant, is injected an additional $4b into its venture capital arm. https://axios.link/47DNzj5

Committed Advisors of Paris raised €2.6b for its fifth PE secondaries fund. www.committedadvisors.com

It's Personnel

Marcos Alvarado joined Sixth Street as a partner and head of U.S. real estate. He previously was with Safehold Inc. www.sixthstreet.com

Acton Capital, a European VC firm, promoted Julius Luehr to partner. https://axios.link/48OrMqg

Scale Venture Partners promoted Noah Gross to principal. www.scalevp.com

Final Numbers

Change in new business applications
Data: Census Bureau. Map: Alice Feng/Axios

New U.S. business applications rose 7.4% last year, per an Axios analysis of Census Bureau data.

  • Colorado (+115%), North Dakota (+37.7%), and Iowa (+33.7%) had the highest year-over-year increases, while Georgia (-9.9%), Louisiana (-8.6%), and Mississippi (-6.4%) had the largest declines.

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